A few days ago I had the opportunity to write a guest post on Blood Skies (cyber home of Steven Montano) to share some words about my involvement with the Indies Unite for Joshua campaign, and today it is a great pleasure to announce that Steven is my very first guest blogger on Sharkbait Writes. I met Steven on Twitter last year when he was writing his first book Blood Skies and I have to say he is one of the coolest guys I have ever meet. He has a great sense of humor and has a special talent for writing and managing his time.
If you are a writer I’m certain you have come across the difficulty of juggling your busy schedule to find time for writing. Today Steven Montano, the talented author of the Blood Skies series, will be sharing some tips on how we too can integrate writing into our daily routine. Enjoy!
Write the Exercise Way
By Steven Montano
Believe it or not, you have time to write. You may just not realize it. Anyone can find the time to write. But a lot of people can’t figure out how to go about it.
For me, writing is all about routine. Like anything and everything we do, the more you do it, the better you are at it. More important, the more you write, the better you get at the act of writing – the routine, the ritual, the purposeful process of engaging with your work.
I approach writing the same way I approach exercising: as something that is going to happen, no matter what. A few years ago I decided to finally, seriously get in shape. I started counting calories, I walked every day, and I made an effort to get to the gym and jump on the treadmill. I determined how much exercise was realistic for my body to handle (I can only run so long before my knees lock up tighter than airport security), and how much exercise would be helpful towards attaining my weight goal. I figured out how much time I needed to put aside for exercise, what time of day I’d physically be up to the task, and what worked best with my daily schedule.
Don’t get me wrong: it took quite some time to figure this all out. It sounds like a pain…okay, it is a pain…but after you do it for a week or two, suddenly it’s not a pain, and it’s not something you wake up feeling like you have to do. It just becomes part of your routine, so much so that when it doesn’t happen, you notice…and it throws you off, throws you off to the point where you’ll go out of your way to make sure that part of your routine is met, even if you have to shuffle a few meetings or other obligations around to do so.
Yes, that sounds a little obsessive. But that’s what you want.
Now, the trick is to try and do that with your writing.
Hey, I know it’s hard to find time to write. Like I said, I have a job, kids, and a spouse who likes to see me every once in a while (or so she claims… ;D). I write at least 1,000 words a day, 2,000 if I’m actively trying to finish something up. Now, I admit some people consider that freakishly prolific, but how much you write isn’t nearly as important as just writing.
Set yourself a realistic goal, but make it something worthwhile. It shouldn’t be easy (just like a workout shouldn’t be easy): you need to challenge your brain cells enough to kick those creative gears into play, and for most people that doesn’t happen until you have at least a few hundred words down. At the same time, however, you don’t want to set yourself up to fail, because if you do you may quickly find yourself not caring or not wanting to maintain the routine. 500 words is usually a good starting point if you’re not used to writing every day, and you may soon find yourself wanting to do more.
Imagine writing as a workout routine: figure out how much time you need to produce your projected word count, and try to make your writing time coincide with a time of day when you’ll have favorable conditions to be productive. (Some people need silence; others could write while running a marathon while their underwear is on fire. Whatever works for you.) Just like with working out, it may take time for you to figure out when and where is the best time for you to write; just be sure to make writing something you can work right into your daily schedule.
Now, the biggest mistake you could make is to treat your writing time as something less important than the rest of your day. If you do, your mind tells you it’s okay to marginalize or reschedule writing time if your day gets too hectic. This is just silly, and, quite frankly the reason most people end up giving up trying to establish a writing routine. If you want to write, if you need to write, then you’re going to have to make it just as important as going to work, going to the bank, making dinner and dropping the kids off at school. Until you treat your own writing with the proper level of respect, you’ll never be able to work it into your already busy life. (Note: yes, the same applies to an exercise regime.) Now, don’t get me wrong: there will be times when writing doesn’t happen, just like with everything else. Don’t beat yourself up over it, so long as you’re making the proper effort to maintain the routine.
So don’t look at writing as a chore, as something extra you’re trying to do on top of all of your other important life stuff. Don’t force it into your routine, but make it a part of your routine, integrate it smoothly. If you have 15 minutes a day where you find yourself just sitting and staring at the computer screen without actually doing anything, HEY!, there’s a golden opportunity for you. If you have 20 minutes after dinner where you usually just sit and contemplate your toe-socks, BAM!, scribble down a few hundred words, instead. Make writing a part of your equation…a new paradigm, if you will:
My Day Now + Writing = My New Day
Try to make it as much a part of your day as eating your toast in the morning and reading your e-mail. Missing writing should make you feel as discombobulated and as irritated as forgetting your coffee or forgetting to charge up your cell phone.
Once it becomes ingrained into your daily habit – once you’ve secured writing as part of your ritual, when you’ve made it as natural and as automatic as letting the dog out and checking the news – you’ll be amazed at how productive you can be.
Lastly, let’s get the “who is this guy and why should I listen to him about writing?” question out of the way: I’ve self-published three novels and two short stories. I’ll be publishing three more novels this year, and right now I’m about a quarter-of-the-way through the rough draft for the first novel I plan to release next year. I work a full-time job as an Accountant, I’m the father of two medically fragile children (one is epileptic, the other has impulse control issues), I blog two to three times a week, and I somehow manage to find time to spend with my wife.
So there. =D
Steven Montano fell out of the sky one day and landed behind an accountant’s desk. Rather than write novels about his experiences in an alternate post-apocalyptic world besieged by vampires, he decided to reconcile accounts and calculate journal entries. He still writes in his spare time.
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- Book Review: Blood Skies by Steven Montano
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