Finding time to write consistently can be a challenge for me when school starts up again each fall, and the number of obligations on my to-do list increases exponentially. One way I make sure to maintain the mindset that writing is, indeed, a priority, and not a task I can just schluff off in the face of my other responsibilities (that’s right–I think of writing as responsibility; otherwise, pushing it to the wayside is too easy), is by including it as an item on my to-do list. But I don’t simply write, “write.” (At least, not usually.)
My habit is to break my writing goals down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Instead of just writing “write,” I specify the writing goal(s) I have for that day, a series of smaller steps leading up to the ultimate goal(s), which might range from finishing this blog post to finishing my novel to simply maintaining and supporting my writing habit. For example, I might write: “write–> blog post” or “write–>diary” or “write–>novel” or “write–> register for annual conference.” Sometimes, I might break a big writing project down into even smaller parts. Take my novel for example. Right now on my to-do list, the item related to the completion of my novel appears as “write–>order chapters,” because my current goal is to figure out the best order in which to arrange what I have written (my third attempt at a restructure), as well as the best structure (do I want to alternate between the two families, or break the novel into two or three separate parts…?).
Though the projects aren’t done, I made strides–or at least took baby steps.
Now, that all sounds well and good. But there are days (more than I’d like) when a simple lack of time (or energy) forces me to draw a single line through at least one, if not all, of my writing to-dos. The important thing to remember on these days is that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and even small progress is better than no progress. Yesterday’s writing to-dos, for example, included restructuring the chapters of my novel, writing an essay for submission to the Modern Love column of The New York Times (a lofty goal, I know, but so is writing a novel), revising an essay for The Richmond Times-Dispatch, registering for the James River Writers Annual Conference, and preparing and mailing my First Pages page. Those literary to-dos, though, had to share my time with a full day of work; a family birthday dinner; a long walk with my dogs; and laundry, dishes, and other chores. I successfully prepared and mailed my First Pages page and registered for the Annual Conference, and I revised and sent in the article for The Richmond Times-Dispatch. I was a little less productive when it came to my Modern Love piece and my novel. But I’m satisfied, because though the projects aren’t done, I made strides–or at least took baby steps. I worked with the time I did have. Regarding the Modern Love piece, all I managed to do was scribble a couple more ideas onto a piece of scratch paper and read headlines of Modern Love stories online. Regarding the total reconstruction of my novel, I numbered all the note cards–one for each chapter–that I hand-wrote last week so I can later shuffle them around like puzzle pieces and determine their optimal order, and thus the best structure for the novel overall. My original ambitions were to compose a couple paragraphs of the Modern Love piece and conceive at least one (preferably two) possible structures for my novel. Well, I haven’t made it that far yet, but I’m inching closer. And the important thing is to keep on keepin’ on.