One thing my fellow writers always say to me is: “How do you get all this writing AND other stuff done?? Don’t you have kids?? Can you BEND TIME??”
Well, first up I recognise I am privileged to call writing my job. As a freelancer, teacher and blogger, I’m able to make my schedule work for me. I purposefully work within the creative industries so I can always feed my writing habit (and if it sounds like drugs, that’s because it is to me) and also earn money.
But it wasn’t always this way. I MADE it this way. And you can, too – whether becoming a full-time/freelance writer is your goal, or even something else. Here’s how:
1) Don’t wait for the RIGHT time, make it the WRITE time
How much time do you have? If you have a day job and other commitments like family or caring, I’m willing to bet you don’t have much. Welcome to the club.
But everyone – and I mean everyone – has a commute, or a lunch break. Or a sitting-down-cos-life-is-crazy break, even if it’s just on the loo. (I know people who have written entire screenplays and novels on the loo, seriously!).
Plus there will be things you have to do in your life that require physical effort, but no actual brain effort. For me, it’s ironing. I’ve got three kids and my husband needs five shirts for work. If I left it up to him he’d look like he’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. Erm no! My wifely pride will not allow it.
So, whilst I’m ironing, I write. Or rather, I write blog posts. I’m ironing right now. So now you know. Yeah I hate ironing too.
2) Set a WHEN BY date
People often know WHAT they want (i.e. become a professional screenwriter), they may even know HOW they’re going to do that … but they frequently forget to set a WHEN BY date or deadline to achieve this.
So we’re clear: I DON’T mean set a deadline in the sense of “If I haven’t done X by Y date, GIVE UP.” I frequently hear writers saying this, along the lines of “I’ll give myself five years to see if I can make it”. WTAF?! Under such negative starting conditions, of course you’re not going to ‘make it’. You might as well not start as far as I’m concerned.
You need to set a much more positive, achievable deadline. For example: if your goal is to become a professional screenwriter, then why not set deadlines like this:
– I want to get a low budget short script produced by X Date
– I want to have won or placed highly in at least 3 prestigious screenwriting competitions this year
– By X date I want to start and finish a screenwriting course
– I want to have written [number] of shorts, features, TV pilots [etc] by X date
– I want to meet [number] of producers and agents this year
– By X date I want to have gone to [number] of networking events
… And so it goes on. in other words, you need to ensure you’ve done a variety of things that will take you towards that end goal of becoming a professional screenwriter.
3) Break your goals down to BITE SIZE CHUNKS
What do you want to do? Think of it, right now. Can you do, say 2 pages of a 90 page screenplay a day? Or 500 words of your novel that will run to 80K?
Now, work out how long that task will take you. But from those bitesize chunks, set yourself three finish goals and mark it in your diary:
- LIKELY FINISH (your word count per day PLUS 10% ON TOP)
- HOPEFUL FINISH (about 25% sooner)
- UNLIKELY FINISH (about 50% sooner)
I’m not going to lie to you. The likelihood of hitting your unlikely goal is SLIM. I think I’ve managed it maybe 3 times, EVAH. But when you do, you PARTAY extra hard!
4) Don’t work HARD, work SMART
People don’t achieve what they want because they become overwhelmed by TOO MUCH work, or daunted by the prospect of it. But there’s a reason people say, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” This is because the busy people are not the ones talking about it, they’re the ones DOING it … and they’re doing it SMART.
But what this does mean? Well, it means getting REAL on productivity, time management, and delegation. If you don’t know what this means for you, THEN FIND OUT NOW.
5) Know the difference between SOFT goals vs. ROBUST goals
Recognise the difference between what I call a ‘soft’ goal and a ‘robust’ goal. I learnt this during teacher training, when they made sure we appreciated the differences in terms of learning objectives, i.e:
Everyone in my class should learn something in this session.
The majority of the class should know the difference between X & Y by the end of there session and be able to describe this.
Can you see? We’re talking SPECIFICS. It’s hard to set goals and measure how effective they are if we don’t nail them down. So if your goal is:
I want to write a screenplay
This is a SOFT goal. We need to get specific!
I want to write a Horror feature screenplay in the next three-six months
MUCH better, much more ‘robust’. But what about:
I want to write and develop a Horror feature screenplay in there next three-six months so I can enter into X contests next year.
6) Don’t forget to EVALUATE!
People forget to evaluate not only their failures by hiding from them instead, but even their SUCCESSES. They may be overly modest and say it’s pure luck, or are so focused on the next big thing, they don’t realise how they got the place they’re in. Madness!
If you want to move forwards in whatever it is you’re doing, you MUST see what you’re doing wrong AND right. Unsurprisingly, if you’re doing something wrong – you need to stop doing it. If you’re doing something right, KEEP DOING IT. So simple, but you’d be surprised by how many forget all about these tactics!
This is also where we have to get realistic. We WON’T fulfil all our goals and hit all our targets – that’s practically a given. But just because this happens, does not automatically mean FAILURE. And even if you do fail, this is in itself is a learning experience. So cherish that and move on forwards from there, lesson learnt.