My goal for this series of blog posts is for writers to save themselves a lot of time and frustration. This series is meant to get you on the path toward publication, provided you put in the work of writing and revising. Don't worry if you don't follow all these recommendations--who could? I'll be the first to admit that even I'm guilty of sometimes not using my time wisely--look for my tip on social media! But overall this series contains hard-won truths on how to make writing a bigger part of your life. I hope it clarifies the publishing guidelines, professional etiquette, and protocols you may have been unsure about in the past. More than anything, I hope it puts you on track toward opportunities you may not have imagined.
Writers tend to be rather single-minded and very driven people. By nature I'm an introvert who, if let to my own devices, would read and write all day, but I've discovered that I need more than just writing in my life. In order to feel content and fulfilled at the end of the day, I have to make time for people and relationships, too.
The point I am making harkens back to my idea of balance that I wrote about earlier. Having other people you care about in your life (and who care about you) helps keep you grounded and in touch with what's going on outside the page. In order to stay mentally healthy you need to occasionally come up for air and function well in the real world.
This is not to say that I'm necessarily against devoting large swaths of time toward an ongoing writing project--I'm not--but I do think that writers tend to isolate themselves and sometimes this can harm our most important relationships. Writers should strive toward balancing writing, work, and family, or whatever combination that's uniquely important to each of us.
In my personal experience, I have needed large chunks of time when working on an outline or writing a novel. I found that I needed five to six hours per day in order to concentrate and keep my head in the novel. Getting too far away from the work just created large riffs in my productivity when I tried to freshly approach the writing. But this kind of time commitment didn't last too long.
If you're worried about progressing through a novel-length project, consider attending a writing residency at a place like the Vermont Studio Center where you can get meals, space, and time to work. Places like Ragdale, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony are other options. Places like this can be a great way to make some solid progress on your work-in-project because they allow you to devote time toward your work. Some include meals and scholarships to help enable you to attend.
Tasha Cotter, @TashCotter, is a poet and fiction writer based in Lexington, Kentucky. She is the author of two chapbooks of poetry and the full-length collection, Some Churches (Gold Wake Press, 2013). You can find her online at www.tashacotter.com.