A long time ago, writers had one job: writing.
Yes, at some point, there was some networking involved. Knocking on doors, begging publishers to sample their typewritten manuscripts, and all that.
Now, especially for new aspiring writers, things feel a lot more overwhelming.
Before social media, unless you hung out with other writers on a regular basis, you didn’t necessarily always know what others in your industry — sometimes, your competitors, so to speak — were doing. At least, not nearly as much, or as easily, as you might now.
You just focused on getting your own work published while trying to keep up with what others before you had already published — the one thing you desperately wanted to do.
I’m not going to get into how networking and marketing in the book world went down in those days, but it’s definitely different now, being so connected to every writer and potential reader around the world.
Now, you can see every time the writers you follow promote their upcoming books, or announce their latest successes, or recommend all the books you can’t help but add to your to-read list (you know, the one that never gets any smaller no matter how hard you try).
How do writers do it?
How do they find the time to write — but also promote themselves, and study through reading others’ words, and build their personal brands, and break through all the literary noise?
Well, to be honest, many of the “big-time” writers you follow have people helping them do a lot of the branding and promotional stuff. This probably isn’t news to most of you.
But how do the rest of us — let’s say, relatively small creators like myself — do it without help? How do we find time to do everything, without creatively burning out?
Many times, we’re very bad at it. It’s just not always easy to see that from the outside. No matter how transparent some of us are when it comes to how life as a writer is really like, deep down, some of us do struggle to make it all work.
In the long-term, it’s really all about forcing yourself to be aware of how you’re using the time that you have. Since you can’t create more of it, you have to arrange your hours in such a way that everything fits, let’s say at least 80 percent of the time.
You have to create a schedule.
You have to decide, on a Saturday morning when you’d love to just chill, whether or not you’re going to spend four hours reading a book, or an hour reading, two hours writing, and an hour responding to comments on your latest blog post.
Do we get better at this kind of time management the more we do it? I think so. But I also think it’s important to remember that you’re going to have days where everything just falls apart and you watch half of a season of Jessica Jones in one go and let yourself NOT feel guilty about it.
Not all writers are good at all things, all the time.
The thing about time is that you’re not always going to spend it the way you wish you had.
Routines form and break apart. You sprint full-force into things that sometimes don’t last forever.
The only way to find time for everything is to accept that you’re only in control for part of it. When you have a choice between doing the work and putting the work off, you have to train yourself to do the best thing in the moment.
And when you aren’t in control and things change, you have to learn to deal. To rearrange. To run with it.
How do you learn all this? By doing.
In time, you figure it out. The best that you can, anyway.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.