Kickstart your book: week 2: defend the time

This week: defend the time. How to be an avenging angel with a flaming sword, success through schizophrenia, and some ideas of what to do with this precious time once you’ve found it and protected it. Ultimate aim: enter the next quarterĀ writing a book, not planning to write a book!

Week 2: Defend the time

From last week, you should have a list of what you’ll gain from this book. Now we’re going to give it some time. “But I’m not ready yet!” – “But I don’t know what to do!” – “But I don’t know where to start!” – “But before I can start, I need to…” That’s fine. That’s why you need to give it some time.

1. Book the time into your calendar. You need decent-sized chunks of time, which means at least two hours in a session. You also need good-quality time, not the fag-ends of yourself. If you only have evenings available, don’t vaguely expect every evening that you should be writing – that way guilt and procrastination lie. Instead, block off a maximum of 2 evenings a week and protect those two. And yes, a maximum of 2: you may not worry about overworking yourself, but your writing almost certainly will. It’s a long-term project, so what you do this week and this month, you’ll need to be able to do next week and next month. Resist the temptation of a big push to make yourself feel like you’ve “caught up”. Giving it proper time, and sustainable time, is a much better catch-up: you’re planting the seeds of a habit that will carry you through the whole project.

Defend your writing time like an angel with a flaming sword.

defend the time2. Protect the time. Imagine yourself standing like an angel with a flaming sword in front of that time, and none shall pass! I divide myself into different personas, the “Managing Director”, the “Writer”, the “Artist”, and so forth. One of the Managing Director’s jobs is to protect the writer’s time. The writer, it turns out, can’t protect her own time – it needs the MD’s authority and gravitas. Practically speaking, think ahead a bit. If it’s an evening, get a readymeal in or cook double quantities the night before. Make sure your house, or workspace, is tidy beforehand so you don’t spend the precious time cleaning your study or living room. If you can’t escape distractions and time-thiefs at home or in the office, go to a coffee shop. We’ll talk more about finding your right space and headspace in a couple of posts’ time, but for now – just make sure you protect the time, from start o’clock to finish o’clock.

3. Use the time. If the project’s been on the backburner for a while, you might feel like you can’t start until you’ve started again – but that’s fine, you can use the time to pick it up again. Here are some suggestions of how to use that first, precious chunk of time:

  • If you’ve started on the book before, collect and print out all your notes, drafts, and writing on it. Read through them with a pen in your hand, scribbling notes in the margins.
  • Make a list of everything you’d like to put in the book.
  • Write the marketing blurb for the back of the book.
  • Brainstorm the contents of the book on unlined paper, ideally using coloured pens.
  • If you feel like you can’t continue until you’ve done more research, write down all the research you need to do and map out how you’re going to go about it in your next block of time.
  • Think about your organising principle and the overall shape of the book. You can even draw it.
  • Write any snippets of the book that come to you as you plot and plan stuff. You never have to write a book in order! And sometimes, writing a sentence or a snippet becomes writing a paragraph and then three A4 pages later, you realise you’ve got a chunk of it onto paper.
  • Write about the book on sheets of A4. Some of it might be bits of the book, some of it might be plans for the book. Some of it can be concerns or fears or anxieties, which you can write and address there as well.
You’ll notice I’m suggesting working on paper, not on the computer. That might seem inefficient – but very often, as soon as we get onto a computer, we want everything to be orderly and neat. It’s easy to spend more time fiddling with formatting, and cutting-and-pasting every thought into order, than you do coming up with stuff. Paper can help your focus stay on thinking about the book, and also liberate you to be a bit disorderly. We’re not expecting thoughts to march out in chronological book-ready order. We’re setting them free, inviting them down, drumming them up – getting them out.
This week’s core task: book the time into your calendar and honour it.

7 thoughts on “Kickstart your book: week 2: defend the time

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