June 29, 2022

Are Time Bandits Keeping You from Writing Your Memoir?

time-banditsTime bandits come in all forms. They’re anything that keeps us from doing what we commit to doing where our writing is concerned. They might be social commitments. They’re most certainly work commitments. They can show up as the guilt we feel for not spending time with our family. They can also be the many other personal commitments we have: exercising; mowing the lawn; doing the dishes. There are a few lucky individuals who have figured out lifestyles that foster having a creative life, but most people struggle to find the time in their schedules to write a book.

Looking at your existing commitments as time bandits is not meant to shame you or make you feel like you should be giving up on something else completely in order to write your book. After all, we have to pay the bills. We want and need to spend time with our families. However, time is slippery, and any time is not a good writing time. If time is an issue for you, you must schedule your writing. Do not let your writing be something you’ll get to, or something that’s on your to-do list every day. The notion that every day may be being a writing day usually manifests as guilt for not doing enough writing—or any writing. Weeks and months can go by like this. I’ve seen it many many times—writers who feel guilty every day for months—even years!—for the writing they’re not doing.

5 Ways to Beat Your Time Bandits

  1. Schedule your writing time. Honor your writing enough to keep those appointments with yourself. They must be appointments you won’t break.
  2. Ass in chair! You must show up, even if you’re dreading your appointment. For those of you without a regular writing practice, I recommend what I call the “3 x 3 writing schedule.” This is three hours a week, three times a week. It doesn’t matter when you schedule this time, though it’s helpful if you know what time of day you do your best work. If you can’t do 3 x 3, do what you can. Maybe it’s 1 x 5, but whatever it is, make it consistent and put it in your calendar.
  3. Get an accountability partner. This can be a fellow writer or a friend. You can find someone online to be accountable to. Set up a schedule and commit to sending them something once a week, even if it’s only 500 words.
  4. Stop putting others before yourself! This is so hard to do. Everyone else comes first. But time bandits are at their most clever when they’re masquerading as your inner critic, making you feel like your writing is not as important as other stuff going on in your life.
  5. Enroll your family and friends. Tell everyone in your life that you are writing a book, and let them know how important it is to you. I have worked with many authors who didn’t get serious about their deadlines until after they had a book deal. Very few of you have that luxury, however. Most of you are going to be working to finish your book before you secure a publishing contract, or if you’re working to finish a book that you’re self-publishing, then it’s all on you. Don’t get sucked into needing outside validation as a motivator. Become your own task-master and get support from your family and friends. You can even use them as accountability partners who help remind you when you are not keeping appointments with yourself or when you’re inadvertently or self-indulgingly allowing your time bandits to keep you from doing your writing.

*This post was adapted from my book, What’s Your Book?

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