I occasionally get asked ‘How do you fit it all in?’ Several anthologies to edit, proofread, format and publish; 5,000 items of merchandise available for sale across the world based on my original artwork; original books to write and publish; a daily blog which has been running for two and a half years now without missing a day; running a successful, expanding group on Facebook and answering queries, responding to comments and so on; plus private editing and proofreading work for individual clients. The truth is, that is only part of my workload - i’m working on projects that haven’t seen the light of day yet, more about which you will hear in due course.
Do I sleep? Am I super-powered?
The truth is I’m very normal. I get about nine hours sleep a day. I take my young daughter to school and collect her in the afternoons, spend time with her, do the shopping and various household chores, prepare the majority of meals and try to look after my wife who works as a primary school teacher. So how do I fit everything in?
There’s a simple process which I have looked at before (and which I go into in some detail in the first module of my course - which is available for free here).
A week consists of 168 hours. How do we spend these hours? Or rather, how could we spend them in order not to waste them?
Let’s start by taking 68 hours off the top for sleep. That gives you almost 10 hours every day to rest, which is very important and shouldn’t be skimped on. Not getting enough sleep leads to other problems, including lack of concentration, fatigue, making mistakes and a general grumpiness which we could all do without. Lacking in sleep, we also open ourselves up to health problems. So we’ve dealt with that by allowing ourselves plenty of time to sleep deeply and replenish our energies.
That leaves us 100 hours each week. Take away 20 hours for mealtimes: three meals a day, about one hour each meal. We know that not every meal is going to take an hour, but let’s be generous with ourselves and allow time for food preparation and cleaning up afterwards. I don’t own a dishwasher, so all dishes have to be done by hand, by me. 20 hours a week should be enough to tackle eating and everything associated with it.
That leaves us 80 hours. I’m going to suggest that we remove a further 20 hours - about three hours a day - for random chores that might crop up: cleaning, shopping, paying bills, taking out the trash, talking to neighbours and so forth. Add in here those things that interrupt you and are generally a nuisance. Funnily enough, you might find that causatively allocating a time to nuisance tasks makes them feel like less of a nuisance. So that’s all that taken care of.
60 hours left. Perhaps we should remove a further 20 hours for ‘family time’: I know as the father of a young daughter that about three hours a day will be absorbed by her, in one way or another, and she deserves at least that much. You may have other family members that need your attention, so we’ve covered that.
40 hours to go. I’m going to remove a further 10 hours just for the sake of it, because I want you to see how this works. So 10 hours is sitting there on our schedules of ‘unallocated time’, just so that no one feels that we are cutting corners in any way.
That gives us 30 hours each week during which we should, theoretically, have no distractions and, in principle at least, be able to write.
If you can build up to a reasonably fast typing speed, you can generate between 1,500 and 2,000 words an hour on a keyboard. But let’s say for the sake of this experiment that you can manage about 1,000 words per hour. You should therefore be able to generate about 30,000 words a week, or 120,000 a month. Allowing for revisions and so forth, that’s about one decent-sized book of 80,000 words each month, first draft revised into second draft. You may want a third or fourth draft, so give yourselves another couple of weeks. In six weeks, in other words, in theory, you should have been able to knock out a fully-revised and ready-to-go-to-print 80,000-word book.
While getting enough sleep, eating well, spending time with your family, taking care of chores and all the rest of it.
With 52 weeks in a year, you should be able to put out eight books a year and still give yourself holiday time.
Have I forgotten anything?
Possibly, but nothing springs to mind straight away. If you have a full-time job, of course, then that wipes probably 50 hours off your schedule straight away allowing for commuting and everything else that goes with it. But you can scale things down proportionately and still get some writing done.
Note that I didn’t mention television. Television is the mind-killer, the time-murderer. I occasionally watch a movie with my family, but otherwise prefer to write and create my own worlds, rather than be sucked into other people’s ephemeral universes. So I recommend getting rid of your TV or just not watching it.
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And it is. If you can get into a position where you can write for 30 hours a week, you can generate a huge amount of wordage and allow yourself time for editing and revising and just about everything else too.
Over the last two years I must have written over two million words. My typing speed has risen to the point where my daughter cannot believe that my blurred fingers are actually typing out comprehensible words - but I still only use two fingers. And there’s nothing special about me. I have a caring and wonderful wife and a beautiful daughter, which helps; I live in the place of my dreams and have few debts, which also helps. But it took many years of work to get here, and just about everyone can do it.
Work this out for yourself. Can you get 30,000 words written in a week? If not, why not, and what can you do about it? I’d be interested to hear from you.