Writing on a Schedule
This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is How/Where You Write/Prep chosen by V.A. over at Leicester’s Ramble. So it’s all about where and how people like me and all the other creators and GMs out there write for tabletop RPGs. Whether you write homebrew adventures, a blog, novels, short stories, supplements, articles, or rule books, this information is for you.
Like most of you I have an insane schedule. I’ve got a full-time job, three regular podcasts, and freelance assignments. I’m in a committed relationship with an amazing woman that I enjoy putting time and energy into. I run two D&D games. I’ve got family relationships and friendships to maintain. I also have the human requirements of food, clean clothes, showers, exercise, and sleep. I don’t even have kids or school to attend like many of you and I’ve already got a full schedule. So when am I supposed to write for this blog and my campaigns?
My Happy Place – The Commute
I have a 20-minute to 30-minute (one way) commute to work that uses public transportation. While I’m waiting for and on the train, I write. That’s what I’m doing as I write this sentence. Even if if have to stand on the train and hang onto the bar over my head with one hand because all the seats are taken, I write. Even if my commute is as fast as can be each day of the work week (and that never happens with the Washington, DC metro), that’s 3 hours and 20 minutes of solid writing I can get done each week.
I do this writing on my iPhone using the Notes app. I can email, text, and copy/paste my words with a few quick finger motions. Notes is linked to my Google account so all the work I do is automatically backed up. Combine this with the WordPress app I also have on my phone and posting a blog update is a breeze.
Of course, using a smartphone is not ideal for editing. That’s why the man (in his corporate anti-rock-and-roll visage) created the lunch break.
Edit During Lunch
I’ll be honest. I hate editing. I’m sure Greg Blair can attest to this fact as he has found many a typo in my blog over the past year and emailed me about them. (Thanks, Greg!)
Still, editing is one of the most important parts of the writing process. Editing is shaping your lump-of-clay words into a beautiful statue. It never takes as long as you think and if you can find time to write, you can find time to edit.
I like to edit my work during my lunch hour. This works out well for me since I don’t need to edit every single day. I usually need only two hours of edit time a week, depending on how many projects I have going and how many PDFs I’m trying to put up on the Free Game Resources section of this site. That gives me three hours for whatever I need to do, like grab lunch with a friend, catch up on work for my day job, run errands, write podcast notes, etc. Giving myself two guaranteed hours of edit time is great and I try to use them at the beginning of the week. That way if I need some extra edit time I can try to use my lunch hours later in the week to help me out.
The Editing Exception
I must admit that there is one thing I never edit and that’s my home campaign notes. Good lord are they riddled with typos and mistakes, but it doesn’t matter! Those notes are just for me and I know what I meant. Unless you’re planning on sharing your home campaign notes, don’t worry about editing. Save yourself some time (and also use helpful organizational tools and improv techniques to cut down on your prep time).
Best Laid Plans
Sometimes all the lunch hours and commute time in the world aren’t enough to get a project done. Sometimes life gets busy and all your time free time is spent doing stuff that isn’t writing. In these cases I still have my favorite time to write, which is the early morning.
Starting the day off writing is like starting the day off with a great workout. You feel accomplished and ready to face the rest of the day once the task is complete. If you can wake up and get going before anyone else in your household, that’s even better. Your distractions are limited because the rest of the world is sleeping or just waking up. Email, Facebook, Twitter, texts, and more are just as sleepy as the rest of the world. The quiet and the good night’s sleep you just had put you at the top of your writing game. The anxiety you felt the day before as stress built up over work, family, etc. is gone or at least lessened at the start of a new day.
There’s another great reason I like to write at the start of the day. The work gets done sooner. That writing is no longer hanging over my head. Even if you enjoy writing, waiting until the last moment to complete something makes it feel like a chore. It can conjure up bad memories of pulling all-nighters to finish a school assignment. Write in the morning and you’ll be less stressed the rest of the day.
When I’m writing I tend to like music without lyrics or music with lyrics I know by heart. For me lyrics I don’t know very well become distracting. (Did she just say she wants to see my peacock?!?) Depending on what I’m writing I usually opt for something thematic for fantasy, like a John Williams and Hans Zimmer station on Pandora, or I go with something upbeat to help the words flow and keep me in a good mood. That’s where my favorite bands The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Action Slacks help out. I’ve been listening to them forever so the lyrics don’t trip me up and their fast-paced songs help the words flow like ambrosia.
Listening to music can help you get inspired and write faster, so if you’re on a schedule grab a favorite album or appropriately theme soundtrack and get rocking.
What About You?
How do you like to write and what helps you be super quick? I’m always looking for more tips so sound off in the comments below!
If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!
February 12, 2015 @ 11:37 am
Dude this is awesome. I always knew you had a site, but never really looked till now. Great writing tips!
For me, I just fit it in when I can. I used to be really good about writing every morning, but time and work and junk gets in the way. Now I try to write for personal projects 3-4 times a week, usually for 30-45 minutes at 6. I’m at my computer, working away till then — once 6 hits, I can switch to personal mode and stay in that vein. I’d love to get back to a cup of coffee and a still morning routine, though.
February 12, 2015 @ 12:55 pm
That’s not a bad way to do it. You’re already sitting down and in work mode, so you just make it happen. Google docs makes that a breeze too.
February 12, 2015 @ 4:52 pm
You hit the nail on the head with this one, James. Finding essential time, and limiting distractions become key skills. It’s great that you’ve found time to write daily. I’m super-jealous. One of the reasons I started my blog was to try to at least do some writing every week.
February 13, 2015 @ 12:00 am
It can be difficult at first (especially with the lives we lead). It’s definitely cut into my video game and TV time, but I am super happy with what I’ve been able to get done.
February 13, 2015 @ 12:21 am
Yes, the ‘writing in-between’ strategy appears to be a common thread for busy people with ‘other’ lives. My wife tells of writing her thesis or research papers early in the AM, or during 15-minute patches of child nap-times during her Phd and post-doc days.
Thanks for contributing this month – greatly appreciated! – VA
February 13, 2015 @ 2:26 pm
Wow! Your wife is an amazing person. Thanks for hosting!
February 13, 2015 @ 12:23 am
I like that you use your commute time for writing. If I had the ability to use public transportation for my commute I’d be doing the exact same thing. My commute is about the same (20-30 minutes) but I’m driving myself so I use that time to listen to podcasts. I’ll have to check yours out.
February 13, 2015 @ 2:26 pm
Thanks! I love listening to podcasts too. I wish I had more time to consume it all!
February 13, 2015 @ 3:10 pm
@dagorym, this may sounds crazy, but have you ever tried recording your thoughts while you’re driving? I used to do that when I was dating the handsome gent who writes this blog long-distance and applying for jobs. My weekend time was precious to me because I’d get to spend time with James, so when I was driving I would record my ideas for cover letters, just speaking about why I wanted the job or why I was qualified like I was practicing for an interview, and then listen later to shape them into a letter. Saved a lot of time and could work for other kinds of writing too!
February 13, 2015 @ 3:52 pm
Oh I totally forgot about that. That is a great tip from a great lady.
February 13, 2015 @ 4:13 pm
Actually, I have thought about that. I think I even tried it a time or two. I’ve just found it more efficient to use the driving time for listening to other things. I’ve always worked desk jobs with fairly loose structure so it was always easier for me to just put my thoughts directly to digital paper at my desk (either at home or in the office when I wasn’t working at home).
February 14, 2015 @ 9:50 am
Flexible jobs help too. If you have free time at work and can write, it’s a better idea than surfing the net mindlessly.
February 13, 2015 @ 3:07 pm
This is a great article – I think writing in the morning is the best tip! Because I have desk job, by the time I get home I really don’t want to stare at a computer anymore. In the morning, it doesn’t feel like a chore, and your mind is crisp and ready to be creative.
February 13, 2015 @ 3:31 pm
Yeah! It requires waking up earlier (which can be a pain), but if you do it, you’ll be much happier.
February 13, 2015 @ 4:14 pm
Yeah, morning is the best time for me as well and for the same reason. Once I’m home from work I don’t want to really be staring at the computer screen anymore for a while (and the kids rarely let me.)
February 14, 2015 @ 9:49 am
It’s true. Kids add a whole new dynamic to trying to write in your free time. I don’t have any myself, but I’d be interested to hear how folks with kids juggle it all.
February 14, 2015 @ 11:17 am
Well, I’ve got 7 (six still at home, one a freshman in college) and writing typically happens when they are in bed. In the morning (getting up early) when I can and in the evenings otherwise. I definitely don’t get much done during the day.
March 19, 2015 @ 1:29 am
Reblogged this on solpicador and commented:
I am glad to learn how other people stay productive writting…
March 19, 2015 @ 8:07 am
Thanks, Elena!!! Your blog is pretty cool!