Being a writer in today’s digital climate means being not only an author, but an entrepreneur and business owner as well. We authors are wearers of many hats, and most of us know what it’s like to manage our own social media profiles, create our own e-newsletter distribution lists, organize our own promotions and giveaways, and seek out our own media opportunities… all on top of actually doing the writing bit. As a writer-entrepreneur, you have the blessed freedom to structure your writing work hours in whatever way best suits your needs and personality–which is a good thing. But (and it’s a big one), as anyone who structures their own work hours can attest to, if you don’t have a plan in place for what to do with your time, you might quickly find your day descending into chaos.
In the general context of my everyday existence, I make the effort to live an intentional life (most of the time). What that means is I get up in the mornings and follow a more-or-less set routine so that my days get off to a great start. It means my husband and I make time in the evenings to spend together so that we don’t take one another for granted. I make an effort to exercise for both my health and my mental well-being, and I create opportunities to speak with my son about his day so that he knows he is supported and loved. By and large, I would say that the things I choose to do align with the person I want to be. It doesn’t come naturally, this intentional living. But with practice, it comes comfortably.
When it comes to writing, more specifically to the business of writing, I find that living an intentional writing life is just as important for aligning with the overall writer I want to be. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when I had no idea what living an intentional life even meant. As a result, my days were chaotic. Sitting down to write was dependent on my mood and my motivation. Tasks were switched easily depending on where the biggest fire was. And I would often despair at the end of the day that I had not used my time effectively, and therefore had accomplished far less than I wanted.
I’m happy to say that I’ve turned this around quite a bit. For several years, I’ve managed to effectively live an intentional writing life, too. It doesn’t come naturally and I’m not always perfect at it, but it comes comfortably. The result is that it has increased my productivity and my enthusiasm for being a writer tremendously.
Want to know how I do it? Here are some of the ways I live an intentional writing life.
By far, this is the biggest discipline in terms of helping me be productive. I spend most of my Sundays doing this, in fact. When I haven’t spent time planning out my week in advance, I feel lost and unfocused. But if I spend time identifying what tasks need to get done and what weekly goals I want to achieve, I have a plan on how and when to work on them.
For example, I am working on the second novel in the Hanley Family Series. In fact, this is the first week that I am putting the first words down on paper (Autumn in Arborwood was just released in March). So, for this week, I have a day to outline what I want the first chapter to achieve and what major plot points need to be addressed. I have a day to sit down and write the first draft. I have another day to do a first edit, another day to do a second edit, and another day after that to do a line edit. By the end of the week, chapter one will be completed. I have a similar process for planning how I’m going to approach writing a blog post, and how I’m going to approach creating content for my social media profiles. When it comes to individual tasks like paying bills, booking appointments and completing random paperwork, I have identified when in the week I will work on each one, and for how long.
By structuring my week like this and identifying not only what I have to do, but when I’m going to do it, I take the stress off my plate of that “gotta get it done” feeling (which quickly turns into that “don’t wanna do it; it’s overwhelming” feeling). Breaking larger tasks up into chunks makes them easier to approach. And designating days to take care of individual tasks means I am not worrying about the fact that they’re out there looming… at least not until it’s time to sit down and get them done.
There is one extra thing I do for planning that may not work for everyone, but I will share anyway. I really love making my planner attractive. I admit it, I am not ashamed. Artistic lettering with coloured pens, planner stickers, colour-coded highlighting… yep, decorating my planner is my jam. Having a pretty, decorated planner makes me actually want to use it, because it makes me happy to look at it. Plus, I’m creative like that and I enjoy the process–especially on a Sunday morning before anyone in the house is up. It’s my happy place. One of my sources of inspiration for a pretty planner is Alaina Fingal of The Organized Money. For tips on planning life and using a planner, I encourage you to check her out.
As a writer, you no doubt know that you should be on social media in some form or another, since you’re probably not so successful that you’re paying a publicist and social media expert to do the legwork for you (but if you are… way to go, you superstar!). Structuring and planning what content I’m going to post and, just as important, when I’m going to post it, has been invaluable for mitigating the stress of not knowing what the heck to post.
I have my social media content calendar set up in Google Calendar. This is a strategy that aligns well with my weekly planning commitment. Google Calendar allows me to attach files, and link documents from my Google Drive. So if I have a blog post outlined, I will attach the draft document from Drive right to the posting notification in the calendar. My social media images will be attached to the day I intend to post them, and I’ve got future post ideas loosely slotted throughout the month that I can rearrange and refine as I go. It’s social at a glance; a digital filing system that helps me stay organized and moving forward.
An added benefit of using Google Calendar for my content calendar is that, when I’m out and about and find myself with extra time to work on something (like while I’m waiting for my son’s boooooring hockey practice to end, or I’m in the eternal checkout line at the grocery store), I can pull up the Drive document with my draft blog post, and work on it on my phone right there. I mean, what else am I doing at that moment?
Other Ways I Live an Intentional Writing Life
Journaling – There are lots of different ways to journal. Whether it’s morning pages, or bullet journaling, or setting yourself questions to answer, journaling helps me get my head around what I need to do, who I want to be, what I want from life, and how I’m going to achieve it. I take a lot of inspiration from influencer Michelle Barnes, so if this is something you’re interested in, I encourage you to check her out. She has some great insight on not just journaling, but on living an intentional life as well.
Podcasts – One of the things I love to do, and have to do, is walk my dogs. As an alternative to music, I will often put on a podcast and enjoy listening to an episode of one thing or another. Boss Babe is one of my favourites. I also listen regularly to The Shit No One Tells You About Writing and The Mindset Mentor. It’s a great way to maintain my motivation when I need a break from my computer, or when I find my enthusiasm for my work-in-progress waning.
Daily Exercise – I can’t stress this one enough. I find that when I am exercising regularly, I have the ability to sustain mental focus for longer in the day. I sleep better, too. I see exercise as an important tool in my productivity arsenal. I don’t necessarily mean a killer gym sesh; walking the dogs counts, too. There are times when I just want to sit down and plow through what I’ve got on my plate, but I talk myself into exercising first because I know that it will set me up for a good blast of mental energy that will carry me through the rest of the day.
We writers are a passionate bunch. Our enthusiasm for what we do is limitless. However, our time with which we have to do it is not. By living my writing life intentionally, I’ve found the best way to be productive and keep myself moving towards my writing goals.
If you haven’t given it a try, I definitely recommend you do. It’s unexpectedly liberating!