ASK AUNTIE MJ: TIME WARP

gitana1 asked you:

Hi! I am doing NaNoWrimo this month while I’m a Junior in college and I work 30 hours a week. My classes are hard this semester and when I’m not in class or at work or doing homework I am exhausted. Do you have any encouragement or tips for me? Thanks so much!

My dearest gitana1,

Auntie MJ feels your pain. That is a lot to take on. Many people have this problem … how do you do this crazy thing? How do you write 50,000 words when there are so many other things to be done? Surely, this will require some kind of OUTSIDE MANIPULATION of TIME AND SPACE. A time warp. That is what we need.

When I was starting out, I had this somewhat insane commitment to write four to ten hours a day, even if it killed me. And I did this with a full time job. Later, I did four to five a day with TWO full time jobs—my only-for-money desk job, and my night job as the literary manager of a theater. I’ll be honest, I did this mostly by not actually doing work during my desk job. I also wrote in the morning, at lunch, and in the hour or so I had between the two. I did not, as I remember it, ever sleep.

I can’t completely recommend this course of action, but it worked for me.

But it is true what they say … the more you have to do, the more you get done. When the hours stretch in front of you, it’s easy it just drag something on. But when your time is limited, it becomes precious. I know that when my deadline approaches, I suddenly become about five times as productive. And I know a lot of full-time novelists with children, some with babies. Their writing schedules are completely dependent on the schedules of a TINY HUMAN. When the tiny human sleeps, they write (and do the wash, and answer email, and eat food, and shower, and sleep themselves, and generally try to live their entire lives).

My advice is this: block out your schedule. Look for blocks of one hour. If you can’t find one hour, a half will do. If you can find one hour a day, you can do A LOT. More than you’d think. Even a half hour a day is something. Just use that time, then shut the computer. See what you can get out of that block. If you can’t find one every day, as many as you can. And make sure you have also scheduled in some downtime. Don’t just grind on to all hours until you explode.

Frankly, if NaNoWriMo takes you a few extra weeks … so what? If you are super, super busy … things are how they are. Finish as you can. Don’t KILL yourself. I think just finding the time, blocking it out, and devoting its use could be the thing for you.

Unless of course you have a totally pointless and quiet job where you can type away to your heart’s content … but Auntie MJ would never tell you to skive off work, now WOULD SHE?

Doing the Time Warp again,
Auntie MJ