Writers never have enough time. Even those who aren’t yet writers—the ones who claim they have a book in them, somewhere—don’t have the time to write their novels! Sure, everyone’s heard of NaNoWriMo, but have you actually tried to marathon-write a book in that time? And—here’s the key part—not wanted to throw your laptop or writing pad out the window?
Writing is Hard!
We’ve all, at some point in our writing careers, tried to put that effort into our work to really be satisfied with what we’re contributing to our list of accomplishments. You set up your blog and you’re writing on it pretty frequently. So much in fact, that you’ve completely abandoned your novel project. It just sits there, cursor blinking, waiting for the day when you’ll find the time to scrub off those mind-dump layers and reveal the polished, perfected work beneath. Or maybe you’ve decided to throw yourself into the article-writing ocean of possibilities, and to swim back to the island of revising . . . well, let’s just say you’d rather be hooked by pirates.
I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and yes, I’ve literarily procrastinated. That book is due back at the library; of course, I have to read it before I can work on revising my manuscript. And those edits? Well, they’re bringing in money right now. No time for world-building. But fear not, fellow writers, there is hope yet!
Your Literary Budget
Time is money and money is time; you’ve probably heard that at some point in your life. In the writing industry this is particularly true! Think about it: authors have a certain amount of time to write their works, in whatever form they might emerge. Editors have to return their comments quickly, so that writers can publish their works. Readers are dying to get their hands on a copy of the next big hit—and will pay handsomely for the privilege!
So, just like any economic model, consider your time now worth an amount of money. The exact amount is not important, but realize that those 24 hours you get each day are now your budget. Just like you might allocate certain amounts to bills and necessities, some of those hours have to go to sleeping and eating, but though it’s a seemingly small amount, this 24, you’ve got wiggle room to spend on investing in yourself. How do you do that? By creating a literary budget—and investing in your writing!
As I mentioned, most of us can’t really function unless we take time to eat and sleep. Allocate a portion of your 24 hours to doing just that. You may be tempted to skip lunch because that next novel chapter is straining your fingertips to pound across that keyboard like Stevie Wonder, but when that afternoon headache comes and you’re out of commission for the rest of the day, you’ll wish you’d paused. Eating goes hand-in-hand with relaxing as well. Half of your mind will be focused on those next few sentences, the forthcoming scene that will blow your readers away; the other half will want to know what your friends are up to, or how your spouse is doing and what’s that on TV? Similarly, you can’t sleep straight after hammering out your novel outline—at least I can’t—so schedule in a few minutes before bed to wind down. Play a game of solitaire or watch the next episode of your favorite Netflix show.
The Day Job
If you’re like me, the inability to subsist on a part-time endeavor that isn’t exactly steady yet may force you to go out and find a day job. I detail cars for a living, and I’ve done it for so long that I can use the time I’m mindlessly scrubbing kiddie footprints off expensive leather to cook up new ideas. It’s a bit odd to run off to a notepad and furiously scribble down ideas when you’re buffing a car, but hey! That next idea might be the one to pay me so much that my buffing days are over. Scrape together those few precious moments here and there, and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish!
Meet, Greet, and Exceed Expectations
Networking and marketing are the two biggest prospecting tools out there. That’s what you need to be spending about 40% of your time on. Money has to come from someone, and unless you meet that someone, you won’t have a chance to earn their money.
Think of the commercials you enjoy the most. Which ones do you show your friends, or imitate after the commercial is done and the TV is off? Those are your study materials. Because those 30 seconds of advertising certainly got the company’s name out, and probably offered up a service or product—but you remember that all because of the message. Not the company itself.
That’s how you want to approach your marketing. Connect with people and be an asset to them. Do they have a report they’re struggling with and they need some ideas? Jump in! Are they behind on a project, but you’ve got the skills to make it happen? Go for it! Make a difference in other people’s lives, and they’ll be sure to remember you—hopefully the next time you’re searching for employment!
Crunch Time: Project Development
You’ve set aside about 40% of your remaining hours to networking and advertising. The next 40% should be spent on those projects that are really going to show off your skills and make a name for you. Whether it’s your novel, or your next collection or poetry, or even the educational text you’ve decided to write, you need to make headway on that project.
The best way to keep on track with these larger schemes is to break the big action down into smaller ones. What is your goal in writing a novel? Probably publication, I’m guessing. So how do you get there? First you need the novel to publish. Okay, so you have to write it all out. However you go about doing that, break that down into steps as well: you might (1) outline, (2) draft, (3) beta read, and (4) hire an editor. If you’re working on an informational topic, maybe you need to do research first. What are those research topics exactly? Breaking something huge down into smaller chunks will help manage not only the actions necessary to achieving those goals—but your stress levels as well.
The Final 10%
While 10% might not sound like much and you think it might be better served in networking and marketing or developing your projects, consider the daily activities you do to keep in touch and hone your writing.
For example, many of the authors I’ve worked with thus far have emailed me frequently. Whether it’s questions on their manuscripts, notes about what they’re looking for in edits, or just simple person-to-person communication, it’s important to keep up with clients and maintain a positive public image.
Now, the reason I don’t include this in the networking section is because that is about prospecting. This 10% is about maintaining and fostering. Develop those leads you have already obtained by offering more services, providing value, or simply keeping up a friendly business connection. While your service may not be something most people need, word does travel fastest by mouth—or internet connection these days. You want your clients to come back for another great service, so keep their thoughts on you. Because whose business card—tangible or not—are they going to pass on when they talk to someone who would benefit from a service like yours? Hopefully your name pops up!
The 40/40/10 Budget
Here it is for you: 40% of your time should be spent on marketing and networking. The next 40% should be spent on actually doing the work you promised your clients, and the last 10% of your budget should be spent on emails and phone calls, blog posts and messages.
Now, you’re welcome to change up your percentages as you like. Sometimes, if I’ve got a big project that needs extra special attention, my needs shift and the budget reflects that. Other times, work is slow, so I focus more on developing my projects and meeting my own deadlines. Consider this structure the next time you find yourself disorganized and remember, those 24 hours may be given to us each day, but it’s how you spend your time that makes all the difference.
How do you budget your literary time? Share your thoughts with us!
Rebecca Henderson holds a Master’s in German and a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. Best expressing herself through the written word, she enjoys the smell of burning rubber and can recite the ABC’s of the automotive world upon command. Rebecca hopes to shift your world perspective through her words, because looking out the same window every day hardly makes for an interesting life.