I’ve recently been asked for advice on how to balance the creative side of writing with the busy work that goes along with it. Whether you are a brand-new writer drafting your first manuscript and working a day job, or a full-time professional writer trying to hit multiple deadlines while simultaneously building a platform and promoting yourself, striking a balance between creativity and productivity is key.
After a fifteen-year career in education, I am now a full-time writer. My professional life is an interesting combination of writing novels and short fiction, doing promotional, editorial, and freelance work, hosting webinars, blogging, moderating panels and programs, and attending book signings. Life is busy and my work varied in scope, and the whole thing requires a ridiculous amount of organization and planning. Here are my best tips to balancing creativity and productivity:
Recognize the two-fold nature of the writer’s life.
I wrote an entire post on this idea. You can read more here: The Modern Writer’s Life – An Intersection of Art and Industry. The bottom line is when we enter the publishing world, we have to recognize there are two sides to the job – the creative side and the business side. Most writers today have to be involved in both, but they require two different kinds of skills. Acknowledging this reality will help you navigate this brave new world!
Hold space for creativity.
I can edit anywhere, anytime. I can crank out a blog post in an hour. I can put together a PowerPoint presentation in the middle of the kitchen while the kids are doing homework. But if I want to work on my new novel, I need a minimum of two uninterrupted hours, preferably in the afternoon. My brain needs space to be creative. I plan these writing sessions into my calendar, which brings me to the single most important piece of productivity advice I have to offer…
Work with a calendar.
Using a calendar allows me to take charge of my time and feel proactive as opposed to reactive. With your calendar, you can honor your personal rhythms, protect your time, and stay disciplined. Start with broad strokes. Define your goals and major deadlines, and then back into the details. Prioritize. Plan. Block out chunks of time for creative writing. Create a monthly, weekly, and daily to-do list. Whatever method of planning helps you stay organized, use it.
I consider a working calendar as something akin to a meeting agenda. If the agenda lists the topics to be covered, prioritizes them, and allows sufficient time for each, hopefully the meeting won’t become a free-for-all! Here’s another post with more thoughts on working with a calendar: 5 Tips for Time Management: A Busy Writer’s Guide.
To me, successfully navigating a world that is both creative and task oriented requires that I take charge of my time in a very disciplined way. Using a calendar, making lists, and planning ahead carves out time and space for the creativity to flow!