I was having a cup of tea with fabulous children's author Liz Kessler (I mean, she's fab, tho I suspect her readership is pretty fab too). She was saying how she starts working at 8am, and goes straight through to 3pm. Pretty impressive stuff. Then she said that all the stuff she was busy doing was promotional work, such as answering fan mail, organising appearences at lit fests, speaking at schools, Twitter etc. By 3 in the afternoon she was exhausted because she'd been working non-stop - but somehow she hadn't done a smidgeon of actual writing.
Oh, how I agreed with her (while feeling faint at the thought about starting at 8 and going on to 3 - I mean, how could I possibly miss Bargain Hunt?). I can cheerfully spend my working day doing the following:
Sorting out my blog - posting and comments
Reading other people's blogs
Commenting on other people's blogs
Reading articles on books/publishing
Facebook (tho I'm not very good at it)
Email - fan stuff, OFAH stuff, agenty, editory, publicisty stuff, organising meetings etc
Reading other people's novels
Reading other people's writing
Plotting and planning my brilliant career (Ha ha)
Writing articles for magazines
Writing short stories for magazines
All of it is relevant and essential to being a writer, and while I'm doing it I'm patting myself on the back that I'm busy at work, but none of it actually contributes a single word to my main project: the new book.
Round about this time of year there's usually a helpful article in the paper about how women wear about 20% of their wardrobe all the time, and the remaining 80% never. The article then goes on to advise decluttering and sorting clothes into keep, store, charity and chuck.
I think it's all too easy for us writers to spend 80% of our time on all the peripheral stuff, and about 20% on the actual writing. I made a conscious decision last Spring to declutter my working day. My equivalent of keep, store, charity and chuck went like this:
No Twitter until lunch time
No Twitter in the evening
Don't read all those articles about the death of publishing
Don't read everything about epublishing
Make notes about blog posts at the weekend so they're ready to roll when it's time
Post on the blog Monday-Friday rather than every day of the week
Make notes on future projects but don't actually DO anything unless the word target for the day has been reached
Set a timer for reading other people's blog posts - max of 30 minutes a day
Stop being neurotic about answering every email the second I get it
Minimise Facebook and don't get sucked into LinkedIn
Now mornings are for writing, and everything else has been shunted to the afternoon or evening. I still haven't got an 80:20 split in writing's favour, but it's getting better - more like 50:50. And has the world come to an end? Nope.
Any other good tips for getting the balance round in writing's favour?