In my late twenties, I was a senior partner in a public relations/marketing firm and regularly worked 60-plus-hour weeks and spent a fair number of days each month on the road. At the same time, I took night-school MBA courses with all the associated homework. I also played tennis, read books, cooked, cleaned house, socialized.
How? I wonder. Were the days longer? Was I more organized? Did my brain function better?
My mother warned me: “Time changes as you get older. It moves faster. You move slower.”
I’m not sure I believed her. I do now.
I started working out of a home office early in my career. So, when I decided to focus on writing fiction and becoming my only client, there was no shift in the work environment. Same computer, office, telephone, and in-home distractions. Pajamas remain optional work attire.
A key difference is that I’m now subject to self-imposed deadlines, and my admonitions—I must write 2,000 words before I quit for the day—aren’t nearly as effective as the arbitrary deadlines clients foisted on me. I can excuse slipping one day because our blueberry bushes need to be pruned and the weather’s warmed enough that I won’t freeze my fanny. Or I need to check Facebook to see if anyone responded to a post on my author page. Or I should spend more time researching an interesting tidbit that may or may not make it into my manuscript.
This is one reason I remain interested in traditional versus self-publishing. I always meet deadlines when I’ve promised someone else that I will.
Another key difference? My attention is fragmented. Social media—Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Linked In, and a dozen writer loops—compete for my attention. By the time I glance at all the media I’m signed into, that Internet black hole may have swallowed an hour or more of my day. Worse yet, I might not have even posted on any of the loops. That means the value of social media in terms of marketing my fiction or getting my name out there is pretty much nil.
Another difference seems to be a lessened capacity to say “no.” Could you (fill in the blank) edit/produce a newsletter for our nonprofit, serve as secretary for our organization, bake cookies for an event, judge a contest? I don’t mind—in fact, I enjoy—granting most such requests, but I seem to have lost my ability to say “no, I don’t have the time to do it now, maybe later.” Perhaps it goes back to those deadlines. Since they’re “just” mine, they’re not as important.
One of the suggested themes for this month’s blog was “turns in our lives.” I’m not going to say I’ve made a New Year’s resolution, but I will say I’m going to look at time differently in 2014. It’s a precious commodity and I need to claim more of it for the things I enjoy doing most—and one of them is writing fiction. Time is moving faster these days and I need to grab hold of more of this precious commodity for myself.
So, authors, how do you make sure you meet your self-imposed deadlines?