With two published books under my belt, I finally feel qualified to write this post. Perhaps it's just the experiential miles talking.
I have started drafting my third book, so the principles I'm sharing here today are about to kick into high gear when 2015 rings in.
As an author, the question I field more often than any other is: "How do you have time to write books, work full time, travel to speak, and keep up with life?"
The simple answer is the amazing grace of a faithful God and the incredible support of family and friends.
But there's more.
It takes commitment. Sacrifice. Focus. Organization. And no small amount of blood, sweat and tears.
Through trial and fire, I've discovered five specific ways to stay sane while meeting manuscript deadlines. There are many more, but these five help the best. Here goes!
1) Say NO to new commitments until the manuscript is turned in.
The moment you commit to a writing deadline, trust me, new and cool opportunities will start pouring in. It's kind of like when you commit to eating healthy -- all of a sudden chocolate appears at every turn. But resisting the urge to add entries to your calendar is crucial to protect and nurture your writing time.
2) Take a sabbatical from voluntary, time-consuming commitments.
I sing on my church's worship team and absolutely love it. However, it requires weekly rehearsal, run-through, time learning music, and singing at both services on Sunday morning.
I took a sabbatical from the worship team for the two months prior to my last manuscript deadline to shift that time toward writing. The team's support and prayers touched me to the core. The cool thing? A few new worship leaders stepped forward and have been a huge blessing to our church.
3) Commit to writing a certain word count each day.
I created a 3-month chart by day/hour containing current commitments. It allowed me to ascertain at a glance which days/evenings could be devoted toward significant blocks of writing time.
Regardless, I committed to adding 1,000 words to the manuscript each day. Some days I only added 500 words, but others reached over 3,500. The chart kept me on track right up to the deadline.
4) Sign off of social media and devote all spare time to your manuscript.
If I had 30 minutes or more to write, I wrote! I loaded my manuscript onto a dedicated thumb drive and carried it with me everywhere. I wrote during lunch breaks at work, while waiting at the airport, during flights, etc. You'll be surprised at how much you get done.
Also, I scheduled a week of vacation from my full time job right before the deadline. I sequestered myself at home to focus 100% of my time and energy to the book. I took a three-month sabbatical from my blog, as well. I also signed off of Facebook and Twitter for the final ten days to eliminate social media distraction.
5) Become slightly anti-social.
This one is extremely tough. Many people believe writing involves strolling along a picturesque river at sunset while eating French bread washed down with wine while pondering deep thoughts that will eventually be captured on our laptop.
Well, I hate to break the idealistic bubble, but writing entails long hours of research and typing on a computer/laptop with complete focus. Headaches, backaches and stiff necks go with the territory.
Explaining my deadline and commitment to family and close friends included them in the process instead of shutting them out. They understood that I wouldn't be up for any impromptu movie nights until after the deadline. Their encouragement and prayer support kept me going during those tougher writing days (yes, they happen).
I am looking forward very much to the upcoming holidays, because in January I will buckle down, put these five items into high gear and complete the manuscript for my third book before Spring arrives.
Bottom line? There are many ways to carve out the necessary time to meet your writing deadlines. Just prioritize, organize and jump in with both feet, remembering:
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."
If you're an author, what could you add to the list?
If you're an aspiring author, did you find anything surprising?.