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Meet Those Writing Deadlines!

If you’re having trouble finding the time to write, join the club.

Time management is a huge issue for writers. Those who work outside the home, somehow have to squeeze in writing time around commuting, working, and (probably) housework. A writer who is the chief caregiver for young children or sick/aging parents, will sometimes feel that he or she needs to be cloned to get everything done. And even if you are lucky enough to be a full-time writer from home, your time can get eaten away by friends, family or endless trivia.
There is one simple yet very effective trick that can make all the difference in your life. Turn your thinking around. Instead of your writing time being the first thing to bite the dust if you’re busy, treat writing as a job. In short: employ yourself.

Suppose someone said to you: “I want to hire your services as a writer. I need you to work 10 hours a week. Can you manage that?”

It’s very likely that you would jump at the chance, even if you are already working a 38-hour week in outside employment. (Let’s not talk about AI or ChatGPT at this point! We’ll assume you’re doing your own creative writing.)

Think of all the ways you can divide up 10 hours of writing. Here are three examples:

  • 2 hours a day, Monday to Friday
  • 2 5-hour stints on Saturday and Sunday afternoons
  • 1 hour a day Monday to Friday, and 1 afternoon at weekends.

“But,” you say, “I’d know that I’m not REALLY being employed. It’s different if you have to meet deadlines for someone else or not get paid.”

Okay, so pay yourself!

Decide that you will pay yourself $2, $10, $15 or $20 an hour for every hour you work—the amount is up to you. Put it in the kitty to save up for Christmas presents, a family holiday, a writing conference or books for your professional library. It doesn’t matter what you use it for: income is income!

Don’t touch the money you earn—you need to be able to watch it grow. Paying yourself now will give you a mental boost.

Anyone starting up a new business knows that it takes a while to see the rewards. Many small businesses expect to run at a loss for the first year or so. If you’re writing fiction, it’s unlikely that you’ll see any income until you sign a contract… but you’re putting in the effort NOW, so why not begin paying yourself now?

As for deadlines: let’s get serious. An ability to meet a deadline is one of the most important competencies a writer can develop. A writer’s life is all about self-discipline. Unless you’re employed as a journalist, you’re probably NEVER going to have anyone demanding results. It’s likely that nobody except you really cares whether you make it as a writer. (Most non-writers can’t see why you don’t just go and get a ‘real job’.)

By setting yourself deadlines now, and employing yourself to work enough hours to meet those deadlines, you are establishing work habits that will be invaluable to you as you build your career.

The Other Side of Employing Yourself

How many times have you muttered: “If only I could clone myself! So much to do…”

Usually, that’s while you’re staring at a mile-long to-do list. You’re not yet earning enough to pay a virtual assistant, although that would be nice… 

Let’s flip this. Imagine you can employ someone to do your job, while you go out to lunch with friends, or attend your child’s sports day, or whatever is competing for your time. You can afford to hire that person for just one day. We will assume that this person is another version of YOU; he or she can handle anything that you can, including writing fiction. 

You have them for an eight-hour day. You want to make the most of that time. 

So… what tasks would you assign? What is the most urgent? What is important? 

Write out that imaginary assistant’s tasks for the day, starting with the one that would give you the most joy to see completed. 

I’m sure you can guess what comes next. Yes: now sit down and spend eight hours DOING THOSE TAKS/THAT TASK YOURSELF. Take only the lunch break/coffee breaks that you would allow an employee. You are paying for eight hours, so you expect eight hours of solid work. 

Try it. Keep a record of what you achieved in 8 ‘paid hours’, imagining yourself as being accountable to your employer. Write down the time taken by each task or each segment of a task, if it needs to be broken up. You need to show a good return on your boss’s investment!

  • Employ yourself.
  • Pay yourself.
  • Be accountable for the hours spent.