Despite working on several projects together, including us both being contributors to Haunted: Eleven Tales of Ghostly Horror, Alana and I have never met in person. I admire her writing talents, and am amazed at just how much writing she does besides her fiction work.
Alana Joli Abbott
A lot of people will tell you that the hardest part about writing isn’t getting the ideas. It’s not coming up with snappy dialog, although that’s a challenge. It’s not even revision. Common wisdom says that the most difficult part of writing is writing.
I’m here to tell you that for me, that isn’t it either. For me, the most difficult part of being a freelance writer is finding – or making – time.
Here’s a little about me. I’m a freelance writer and editor. I’ve been doing this gig – sometimes part time, sometimes full time – for almost ten years now. I write games. I write fiction. I write blog posts about trending topics. I write obituaries and edit autobiographical essays by notable writers. I write a lot of book reviews. I do some project management. I even ran a
successful Kickstarter to fund the self-publication of my third novel after the original publisher went defunct.
I’m also a stay at home mom, a practicing black belt in kempo, and the secretary of my daughter’s pre-school board. (Yeah, we have one.) And here’s the truth. There is never, never enough time.
When I was a kid (before I realized I was destined to write speculative fiction – this should have been a clue), I used to wish I had a little pocket dimension where I could go and hang out to read books or do my homework, but not lose time in the real world. Even that early, I knew I wanted extra hours in the day. I would imagine this lush green meadow under a bright sky where I could relax. Or take a nap. Or practice running so I could stop being so bad in gym class. I wished that I could master the tesseract ala Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time, so that I wouldn’t lose time traveling. Come to think of it, I still crave those things, although I’ve realized that the Internet, one of my great tools of the trade, wouldn’t work very well in a pocket dimension.
I’d like this to be a post about how I mastered time management. I’d like that – but it wouldn’t be true.
Finding time is, to me, the hardest thing about writing because it’s an area where I constantly feel like I can improve. I squeeze in hours for writing contracted assignments during school. I stay up late. Sometimes, very rarely, I get up early. And the work gets done. But every day I feel like I’m still trying to figure out how to do it better. In fact, I only have two tips.
- Take a little bit of downtime, even when it feels like there isn’t any. Because some nights, if I don’t sit down and catch the latest episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D with my husband or do something equally light on brain activity, I’ll sit at the keyboard and just feel tired. Example: on a night I spent an hour relaxing, in the next two hours, I wrote three essays. The next night, in the same three-hour period but with no me-time, I agonized over finishing one.
- Try to find writing gigs that you love and really want to work on. I’m doing revisions on that third novel – the one funded by Kickstarter – right now, and it’s almost as much fun to be back in that world, doing those rewrites, as it is to be reading a book just for fun. Not quite, but almost.
If you’re a writer or are self-employed in another pursuit, how do you manage your time? What tricks have you learned to create more hours in the day?
Also, if you know where to find a pocket dimension on eBay, I’d love the listing…
Alana Joli Abbott is a freelance writer and editor whose short fiction has appeared online and in anthologies, including Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror. Her most recent interactive fiction game, Showdown at Willow Creek, is a Western detective novel in a multiple choice format. Her third novel, Regaining Home, is forthcoming at DriveThruFiction and other online booksellers. You can find her at her home page at Virgil and Beatrice or at her Friday column on comics and interactive fiction on Black Gate.