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I (still) don’t have time

I want to write a book but

I want to write a book but I don’t have the time. Part 2.

In the last post I was talking about what to do if you want to write a book but don’t have the time. This is part two. To catch up on part one, go here. In this post I’m going to demonstrate how, when it comes to finding time to write a book, you need systems in place first and not tips and techniques. I’m all for sharing tips and techniques, don’t get me wrong – I spend time blogging about them after all – but in this case systems are key. More on that in a moment.

You don’t have to answer this

You don’t have to give me the answer to the following question – at least not out loud – after all I’m at the other end of the internet, and you don’t have to tell anyone else either. Treat this as a thought experiment. When you think about writing a book, what’s the secret wish behind that? Let me explain. Writing a book could have many different permutations and what happens after you write it could also look very different. What’s more, what you secretly wish will happen when you’ve written a book – the hidden ‘why’ beneath the ‘why’ if you like – may not match up with your ‘official’ version.

Alan and Mazie write a book

Here are a couple of made up examples. Alan want to publish a book of chemistry lesson plans with a major educational publisher. His ‘official’ reason for doing so is that he’ll help teachers all over the world by sharing his knowledge. His secret hidden wish is that he wins a major teaching prize and gets recognition for all the amazing work he’s been doing.

Mazie wants to self-publish a series of crime novels. Her ‘official’ reason? To bring in an extra income stream. Her secret hidden wish is that she fantasizes about being a private investigator and wants to put those stories down on paper and share them with her grandchildren.

Imagine future-you

The following visualisation may help you to get in touch with your secret wish. If you’re not fond of visualisations, simply jot down the answers to the questions instead of imagining what’s happening.

Imagine future-you. You’ve written and published a book. Fill in all of the sensory details. Where are you? What’s going on? Who’s congratulating you? What are you doing? When is this taking place? In six months? A year? Five years?

The five questions

In the last post I asked you to consider these five questions. When thinking about wanting to write a book and not having time:

  1. How have you tried to solve this problem before?
  2. Why hasn’t it worked?
  3. How do you feel about wanting to write a book but not having the time to do it?
  4. Why do you want to write a book?
  5. Why don’t you have time?

The ta-dah moment

Then I asked you to dig a bit deeper. (Again, you don’t have to share the results with me or anyone else.) And I said that the answer to your problem lay in the answers to those questions. Here’s the ta-dah moment, as far as these questions are concerned. By answering them, you’re working out:

  • Whether you want to write a book enough to prioritise it over other important (or not-so-important) things in your life.
  • What sort of timescale you need to think about.
  • The aspects of your life that are likely to make it difficult to focus or find time to write.

When you know whether you want to prioritise your book now or in the future, you can think creatively about what you could do differently. Once you know what the challenges are, you can find creative solutions to them. Once you know how much time you have in your life right now to focus on your book, you can figure out a reasonable timescale for finishing it.

Systems not tips

You can get plenty of time management tips for writers on this blog. I’ve written a whole series of them and if you want to find time to focus on what’s important, I recommend you make your favourite brew and check them out (there are videos!) but right now I want to talk about systems.

What’s a system? A system is a way of doing something that you set up proactively and deliberately in advance. As far as writing a book is concerned, a system is the opposite of ‘oh I might do some writing this afternoon, I’ll see how I feel’ or ‘I’ll write a book one day, I just don’t know when.’ I’m tempted to say that a system separates the men from the boys, but that would be outrageously sexist, so I’ll put it like this: a setting up a system (or merely the idea of setting up a system) will tell you pretty quickly whether you really do want to write a book. It makes the idea concrete.

A system is:

  • practical (it’s about what you will do)
  • bespoke (base it on your life)
  • workable (it’s obvious what to do next)
  • creative (it’s designed to ‘contain’ your creative output)

A system is not:

  • painful or punishing (if you act like a sergeant major it won’t work!)
  • overwhelming (if it feels that way, redo the system)
  • out there (push past your comfort zone a little, but not too much)
  • divorced from reality (consider your current context as much as possible)

What to include in your system

Do some ground work first. Identify similar books to the one you want to write, follow the writers on social media, read about how they achieved their success. I’ve written more about how to do that in this post. Then you need to work out:

  • how long you want to take to write a first draft of your book. If you don’t know, do some maths based on the length of similar books and how much you usually write in one session.
  • How many writing sessions you want to fit in per week in order to achieve that goal.
  • what changes you want to make to your life to fit in some focused writing time.

Notice I said ‘want’ and not ‘should’. Go back to the five questions if this surprises you! This exercise is based on what you want to achieve and not on what you should or even what you could do.

Your system will rely on finding a time and space to write, turning up regularly, and planning.  I’ve written about those things in this blog post and the posts that link out from it.

What happens next?

Once you’ve been through the exercises I suggest in these two posts (here’s the first one) you’ll know if you really want to write a book enough to prioritise it, and you’ll have enough information to set up a system for getting your book written. Setting up a system is about saying ‘yes’ to your writing and prioritising the book you really want to write. Need help? Here’s how you can work with me.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Lou xx

P.S. Here’s the next post in this series: I want to write a book but I don’t have an idea.


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