Saturday, 15 March 2014

Guest Post by Julie Phillips

Julie Phillips has been a blogging and facebook friend of mine for many years. She's a short story and article writer, and if you've bought any UK writing magazines over the last couple of years you are sure to have read some of her work. She's recently published a book, The Writers' Group Handbook. I asked her for a guest blog post for this blog, and what she's produced will I am sure strike a chord with many of you. Over to Julie:

Less is More

It can be said that a writer's work is never done. There is always so much to write about and never enough hours in the day to do it. Life can get frantic and, more often than not, it's our writing time that is the first thing to go as our time is pressurised by family commitments and emergencies or work deadlines.

It can be tempting, after disruption to our writing time, to try and cram as much writing as we can into the remaining time available. But is burning the candle at both ends and playing catch up the way to go? It used to be for me, until I realised something; the more I tried to catch up and the more I worried about what I hadn't written, instead of what I had achieved. I became more and more frustrated, unable to think clearly and rationally or enjoy what I was writing and my productivity and the quality of my work plummeted.

I was stuck in a vicious cycle and my worries about not being able to write enough and being behind on my writing schedule actually stalled me even further. The situation had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Enough was enough! It was time to stop fretting, moaning, pulling my hair out and gnashing my teeth because I wasn't achieving what I wanted with my writing. It was time, instead to stop, take stock and formulate a plan of action on how I was going to get out of the rut.

The first thing I changed was to re-design my writing agenda. I write around my day job in a school, so writing 9am-5pm for me is not an option. I was writing part time but scheduling as if I was writing full-time. It was no wonder I was falling behind. I realised that I had inadvertently set myself up to fail!

So I allowed myself 15 hrs a week to write. This would happen in the evenings for 2-3 hrs per evening and then a few hours over the weekend, with a full day off a week. I also reduced what I expected myself to do during my allotted writing time from working on three items to two.

By doing this, the pressure was off and, quite often, I now find that I am actually ahead of myself most weeks. If this happens, I don't pile more pressure on myself by adding new tasks - that would just bring me back to square one! Interestingly, though, my productivity has actually gone up, but because I'm spending more time and effort on my projects, the quality is better. So next time you're fretting that you're not getting enough writing done, think of it in terms of quality rather than quantity and remember that less is more.

Thanks Julie! I can certainly relate to this: I also have a full time job and lots of other demands on my time. I don't manage 15 hours writing a week, so I take my hat off to you for that. But I do try to make the writing time I have really count.


Wendy's Writing said...

Julie's words rang so true. Recently, I've started to get stressed about not keeping up with my own self-appointed schedule. It's ridiculous and not productive to think in this way. Now, when things don't seem to be going too well, I allow myself time off and don't beat myself up about it.

Julie P said...

Thanks for your comment, Wendy. It's so true. When you think about it - we have a break from our day jobs -if we have one, so why not from our writing? Time away is essential for our sub-conscious to get to work on our creativity anyway. Happy time off!

Julie x

Jan Baynham said...

Such good advice, Julie. Thank you. Although I don't have a day job - I'm retired - believe it or not, I'm still playing catch up. Usually it's deadlines for competitions or meetings with writing buddies and having too many writing projects on the go that are the cause of my problems.

Julie P said...

Thank you, Jan. Isn't it funy how writing tasks always seem to expand to fill every available minute of our writing time and beyond - no matter how much time we have!

I had a period of about a year where I was writing full-time and I still didn't have enough time. However, now I work full-time in a job unrelated to writing, and have to fit in my 15 hrs of writing around that (evenings and weekends) I am much more productive! I would dearly love to be a full-time writer again but finances didn't allow. Ah well - I enjoy my 'day' job and I'm just grateful that I have any writing time at all. x

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Really impressed with your schedule, Julie. I found I was more organised when working part-time, whereas I waste too much time these days!

Julie P said...

Hi, Rosemary. I think that the less writing time you have the more organised and disciplined you need to be. I certainly have days now when I struggle with my schedule. Not because I put too much on for myself, but because I want to do something else like go for a walk or read something. But I have to be quite stern and strict with myself otherwise I'd get nothing done! I'm hoping my new, slimline agenda will see me through!