Rene Gutteridge joins Chris and Gena to discuss ideas for how writers can find time to write. As busy full-time writers (usually for others), we know how hard it can be to carve out time to write our own work. We discuss strategies that help us succeed in our writing goals, mindset shifts we’ve learned along the way, and tips that we know have worked for others. If you want to finish your book, blog, article or [fill in the blank here], come hear how you too can find time to write!
ePISODE 20 TRANSCRIPTION:
[00:00:13].630] - Gena Hi, everybody. Welcome. Welcome back to the Writing Momentum podcast. We are so glad you're here. And I am here. I'm Gena Maselli. And I'm here with my husband, Christopher Maselli, also with our good friend Rene Gutteridge. How are you guys doing today? [00:00:29].870] - Rene I'm good. [00:00:32].270] - Chris We're just recording podcasts. It's fun. [00:00:34].660] - Gena I know we're pretty excited about this because we are coming to you from Northern Arizona. But we are joining with our good friend Rene, and she is in Oklahoma City. So it's kind of cool. We're working out some of the kinks with the technology. [00:00:52].490] - Chris Oh, yeah. We're technologically savvy by now. We've done a couple of these. [00:00:56].250] - Gena I'm telling you, it's kind of cool that it's coming together because there was a time when we would have thought, man, we got to fly to Oklahoma City or we got to fly Rene and her husband out here, and then we just got to sit down and just grind it out. But now we're all just doing it from our home bases and home offices. [00:01:19].670] - Chris Well, we got a cool topic here, too, because today we are talking about how each of us makes time to write. Okay just to give you some background in episode nine, if you haven't listened to that, it's a really good episode. In fact, episode nine is our number one episode as far as viewer listens goes, because people want to know how to make time to write. And in that episode, several listeners wrote to us and told us how they make time to write. And we shared those. And so we thought we never really talked about how we make time to write. And so today, me and Gena and Rene, we're going to each share how we make time to write in our busy, busy schedules because we got all kinds of stuff going on, crazy stuff going on. [00:02:03].970] - Gena Well, and I think that might be a good thing for us just to quickly share is why is this such a big deal? So, Rene, what do you think? How do you make time to write and why is that kind of why is that something that you have to make an effort to do? [00:02:23].800] - Chris You know what I want to know first? Here's what I want to know. Is your life actually busy? Because I think there's this idea that if we are writers and we have time to actually sit and write novels and that sort of thing that we must not be too busy because we have all this time to sit down and write really big and thick books. Right. So give us a window into your life. Is it actually that busy? [00:02:48].650] - Rene Oh, my gosh, I am in the busiest season of my entire life, so I won't go into all the details of my life, but I have all of a sudden in the last six months, become caretakers for both of my parents. And so I also have two college-age kids. I'm active in Church. I have doctor's appointments. I mean, I can go on, but no, I can't sit around and just decide when I want to write. I have to be extremely intentional. [00:03:26].150] - Chris Aren't you ready to retire so that we can just sit around and think about nothing but writing? Even though I talked to retired people and they say that's not the way. [00:03:32].760] - Rene It is, they say it's the busiest time. Yeah. The busiest time of their lives is when they retire. Yeah. But you do dream about a less busy time. That's why they dream about it. [00:03:46].330] - Gena And I think there's this romantic view of the writer sitting in this log cabin in the middle of a pristine mountain, whatever, sitting there, just waking up and, you know, letting the inspiration hit us and wash over us. And that's not ever been my reality. [00:04:16].350] - Chris We have three teenagers right now. We've got one who's been in track, one who is nightly doing drama. She's in a local play of Gilligan's Island. And so we're constantly in the car doing traffic stuff. Gena homeschools our kids. And so she's got that on top of her writing. We also have a lot of freelance clients. Right. Because we are full time freelance writers. So we're working for those clients in addition to doing our own stuff. And so, yeah, it's like crazy busy. [00:04:46].320] - Gena In addition to Church commitments, in addition to social commitments. Social commitments. Yeah. [00:04:55].050] - Rene So you all have a social life. [00:04:58].050] - Chris We didn't say that. We said we have social commitments right now. [00:05:02].370] - Rene I haven't made it that far yet. [00:05:04].360] - Gena But we overlap them. We probably consider the Church commitments and the social commitments kind of go hand in hand. Yeah. Those things hopefully overlap, so it's double duty. [00:05:19].680] - Chris Okay, so now that we've established that we are all crazy busy with just regular lifestyles, just like anyone listening, I'm sure. Rene, how do you find time to write? [00:05:31].830] - Gena Well, okay. [00:05:33].230] - Chris Take me through a day in the life. [00:05:34].860] - Rene A day in the life. So the whole disclosure is I am a full time writer. I'm paid to be a full time writer. I work from eight to five for the Skit Guys. Typically we have flex schedules, but I have to be very intentional with how I use my creative energy and where I put it and how and at what times. So typically, I do my administrative work in the afternoons when I'm most tired. So I'll do emails and those sorts of things. Filing. I hate filing, but I will do that. And then in the morning, the morning times are reserved for my creative work. And I've done that for a good portion of my writing career. When my kids were little, it was so frantic. My writing time was so frantic. I can't tell you I was writing at 01:00 a.m. waiting for the 03:00 a.m. feedings. [00:06:39].910] - Rene I mean, I've been writing as long as I've had children. My first book was published when my son was five weeks old. So that's been the life for me. But the intentionality is what matters. And I schedule in my writing for my projects that I do on the side that aren't part of my Skit Guys work. I often work on the weekends. I get up on a Saturday morning and work, and sometimes I work on Sundays as well. Those are fun projects for me, and so they don't feel like work. But I do try to do the things like silence my phone, turn off my email for a little while, try to get those good 45 minutes stretches of time where I'm not interrupted. But it's hard. The numbers of distractions that can just fly through your house is unbelievable. It can come in the form of suddenly your dryer is making a weird noise, your dog is puking on the carpet. You have to just find the time and be intentional about it and make up time that you've lost, which is when you're a professional writers, that's an absolute must. If you lose a day because your kids sick or whatever, you can't just be like, well, okay, I guess it will all work out. [00:08:11].900] - Rene It won't work out. You have to make the time for it. [00:08:15].520] - Chris Yeah. What time do you wake up in the morning? I should say, what time do you get to writing in the morning? Are you an early riser or just kind of a normal day? [00:08:25].630] - Rene It's just a normal day. If you're familiar with Enneagram, I'm a five on the Enneagram. So that means that time is my most precious commodity. It hits five and I pretty much shut it down. So if I don't get my work done, then that's on me. So that's why I'm very driven from eight to five to get everything done. So what I tell people, they'll say, well, lucky for you, I have an eight to five job. I'm doing this on the side. Well, the intentionality is what matters. So if you're writing on Saturday mornings, you have to be so intentional in those 2 hours. In fact, you can get more done in 2 hours of intentionality than you can in an eight to five day of just kind of throwing it out there and hoping it works out for the best 2 hours. Oh, you can get so much writing down in 2 hours. [00:09:29].470] - Gena Chris and I have definitely found that deadlines. Whether it's a deadline that you place on yourself, where, like you said, I've got 2 hours, I got to get this done, or whether it's a client that gives you a deadline, it's amazing how much of a motivator that is for getting things done. So definitely I would second that 2 hours of uninterrupted time that you just know, I got to make this count. It's amazing what you can get written. [00:09:58].210] - Chris I also like having those hard stops at the end of my day, say around five or six, saying, okay, I'm done, I'm separating my rest of my life from my work life. Now. You said something. You said 45 minutes of writing time. Do you use, like that Pomodoro technique or something like that where you write for 45 minutes and then take 15 minutes break and that sort of thing. Is that why you said 45 minutes? [00:10:20].590] - Rene I don't do that every day. But on the days that are less chaotic for me, so that I have like, let's say a full stretch of eight to five, I will work for 45 minutes, and then I'll go back in for 15 minutes, and then I'll come back and I'll set a different time and do that. That's something fairly new I've been using, and I do like it. First of all, I've been writing for so long, my hands aren't the young things that my back has a slight hunch to it. I have been standing to work more, but I do have to take care of my body more than I used to when I was young. When I was young, I was terrible on my body and my hands. And now I'm paying the price for it. [00:11:10].520] - Chris Yeah. Back in those days when we could sit cross legged on a couch with a laptop and just bend over it without even thinking about what this was doing to our bodies. Yeah, those are the days. [00:11:19].950] - Gena One thing here, you said something early on, Rene, that I was thinking that really struck me, and that is your creative energy, because like you said, that's the difference. You can working a nine, eight to five schedule where you are not using that creative energy. That is a whole different animal than using that creative energy and just making sure that what you're spending that energy on is meaningful for you. And I don't know what that is for every person that would be something different. But for us as writers, especially as full time writers, a lot of times we're writing for other people. And part of that creative energy has to be used for those other projects, but we just have to make sure we've got something in the tank for ourselves as well. [00:12:16].690] - Rene Sorry, Chris. [00:12:17].390] - Chris Go ahead. No, go ahead. [00:12:18].710] - Rene Well, I was just going to say kind of in a funny way, one of the guys that I work with is Skit Guys that I do a lot of writing with. His creative energy starts at 03:00 p.m.. He is 03:00 p.m. to midnight creative energy person, and we are on completely different schedules. So it's pretty funny us trying to work together. We sort of meet in the middle at about 02:00 p.m., and that's when we're the best together. But it is funny. Everybody has their different there's a lot of late night creative people, a lot of late night creative people. I used to be one of those. The older I get, the more it's turned to early morning. [00:12:58].630] - Chris Those things change. There's a lot of things about life that changes like that. It's kind of interesting. Okay, so Gena, let's put you in the hot seat. What's your writing routine? [00:13:07].970] - Gena Well, I also am very busy. So a lot of times I'm finding that I have to write first thing in the morning, I'm getting up. Not only do I have the creative energy for that, but also I have the time for that because my day gets going and I'm getting pulled in all these different directions. And I started this with just and this was a bit of a mental shift that I made where I started thinking, you know what, I'm just going to write for 30 minutes. I'm going to sit down and write for 30 minutes because at the end of a week, 30 minutes every day for the weekdays is going to be two and a half hours. So I started with that. But what I find is getting over that initial hump of just sitting down and opening the document and starting to work on it. I have yet to stop writing in 30 minutes. It's always very easy to go for an hour, hour and a half. And if I can now, sometimes I just don't have that luxury because I've got different things that are pulling at me that I have to get to. [00:14:20].000] - Gena But it's sometimes just that mental shift of not thinking I'm going to sit and write for 2 hours, that can feel a little daunting, thinking I'm just going to do this for 30 minutes if all I do is edit a page of what I've already written, if that's just where I start. But it quickly happens that I will then get into an hour and a half session and then I could walk away feeling really successful, feeling like, wow, I really got a lot done. So that's probably been one of the game changers for me. Beyond that, though, I find that pre planning is a big thing. I usually will plan my week out on Sunday where I will make sure that I'm writing. I still use a paper planner, so I write out everything, any appointments that I have for the week, anything that I have to get done, because there's so much on my to do list that I have to limit to what I can realistically get done in my week. So I pre plan what I'm going to do and I also pre plan when I'm going to do it. So I will write in the mornings, early mornings. [00:15:40].910] - Gena But if I know that Friday afternoons, I've got some time, I'll go ahead and log that in. And I will also put it in my regular calendar on my computer. So that my whole family can see it so that they know that the time that we are not scheduling other things, or at least they can. This is an appointment that I'm making with myself. So those are two things that I have done really made a point of doing in the last year that have been game changers for me. [00:16:14].990] - Chris I've heard it said that if you want to learn an instrument, the best thing you can do is practice just for a little bit every day. Like it's better to practice for 15 minutes a day than to practice for 2 hours on a Saturday. Right? I mean, you've got to take the time where you got it. But if you can practice that 15 minutes a day, it builds up. We're talking about this last episode, muscle memory, right? Well, with writing, I think there's also that muscle memory where your brain gets in this rhythm of knowing. Okay, I got my butt-in-chair. I'm sitting down to write. This is what's going to happen right now. Do you all agree? [00:16:51].310] - Gena Yeah. [00:16:52].550] - Rene Gena, I had a question for you. You said what I can realistically achieve, which I think sets you up for success. Do you feel that, too, that instead of trying to have these big goals, they're small achievable goals. Right. That make you feel like you've done huge things? [00:17:21].590] - Gena Yeah. That is another thing, just from a productivity standpoint that I learned quite a while ago where they said every day you should just choose three goals that you can get done in that day. What are those three things that you need to do to make you feel successful in your day? And those three things aren't always going to be work related. Sometimes it may be going and taking care of your parents or making sure you make that doctor's appointment. But at the end of the week, when I'm looking at those three goals every day of what I'm doing, I need to make sure that a good portion of them are my writing goals so that I can feel successful in that. And so that I feel like I'm moving the needle on that thing that gives me a sense of accomplishment personally and that I can feel successful in my career, not just I mean, yes, I have clients that I'm working for and yes, I want to do a good job for them, but that's not what's moving my needle. What's moving my needle is my own personal writing. What I feel like, not just what I want to write, but what I also feel like I should be writing what I need to write, what I need to get out. [00:18:41].690] - Gena Yeah. [00:18:42].330] - Chris I was listening to reading a book by a productivity guy, Jon Acuff. He does a series of books on time management, that sort of thing. And he said to take whatever goal you have and cut it in half. So if you plan to write for an hour, make your goal a half an hour instead of an hour, because then you're more likely to achieve it and probably more likely statistically more likely to do it for an hour or more. Or if you have a goal that you want to produce something in a month, make it two months, give yourself more time because you're more likely to achieve it, and then do even more because statistically they show you actually do more if you do those kinds of things, which is kind of a cool technique. So I've tried to make my goals a little more reachable because of that. [00:19:27].890] - Gena I think so, because with several of things we've mentioned here, there's the technical part of just sitting down and doing it. But also there's this mental shift that has to happen for success, whether it's writing for 45 minutes and giving yourself a break so that you're more alert when you sit back down, whether it's being realistic with your goals and recognizing that you are not going to achieve the big goal, but you're going to have to break those down. A lot of that comes down to me, and this is what I have found is it comes down to mental shifts. Making those mental shifts in my head. [00:20:10].130] - Chris Absolutely. [00:20:13].530] - Rene What is yours? [00:20:14].750] - Chris Yeah. So what I do is I start my day with a to do list of three items I try to put on that to do list. One item that is related to a client I have because I'm a full time freelancer. One item is a move the needle item for my own business or writing. And then one is usually like an errand. Right. Something I just have to do for the household. And by having those three things, I can achieve usually three things a day. Right. That's my thing. I can do that. I can try to do those three things, but one is for someone else, for my business. One is for my moving the needle for my own stuff. And then one is kind of like a household item. And by doing that, it makes me have three very achievable goals. And then I always try to take the one that's the hardest and do that first because that's when I have the most energy. Ryan Tracy, he calls it eating the frog. Right. You need to eat the frog first. That's the hardest one. And you do that, and then you be a lot better to go. [00:21:21].540] - Chris And then the other thing that I've done within this past year that has made a huge difference is I've hired a virtual assistant to help me with some of the things that I used to always do myself because I thought this is so easy, I can do this myself, and I can do it fairly quickly. And what I didn't realize was the amount of mental space that took and how there's a lot of things that we all do that really anyone could do, right? Anyone could do those, but we choose to do them ourselves. And then there's other things we do that only we can do. No one else can write your book. You have to write your book. But anyone can probably edit that podcast or put posts on social media for you. So those are the kind of things I've been trying to move to a VA. And I've just tried to figure out how much is my time worth and then pay someone less than what my time is worth to get those things done so that it makes it frees up time for myself. And those two things have been the biggest game changers for me. [00:22:28].050] - Gena Well, and I do want to say that hiring a VA, we can do another podcast on this because that's definitely been a process. Finding somebody who's really good, who can replicate you is not as easy as some of the marketing material will tell you. [00:22:52].880] - Chris No, not easy to do. But when you do, it just it makes things so much better, so much easier. Okay, speaking of which, if you still feel like, hey, these are all great tips, but I am finding it hard to find time to write. We have coming up this next month...we're going to have Writing Moments, and these are times when we're going to all get together on Zoom. Rene and Gena and I will all be there and we're going to have a short teaching at the beginning for about ten to 15 minutes. And then we're going to spend 45 minutes on mute, all working together. We're going to do that Pomodoro technique that Rene was talking about, and we're going to do that for one session once a week and just have a time that we can schedule on our calendar to get this done. So if you want to know more about that, go to writingmomentum.com. Go ahead and grab one of our free downloads or whatever we got there. Good. Just give us your email address is the point I'm getting too, because when we have that, we will then let you know when Writing Moments are starting so you can be a part. [00:23:50].510] - Chris It's going to be super fun. Are you guys excited about that? [00:23:54].130] - Gena I am. [00:23:58].570] - Rene You talk about what you're enthusiasm is overwhelming. Yeah, well, sorry, Gena, I had to burst in and say yes, but go ahead. [00:24:09].380] - Gena No, I want to hear what you're excited about. You say what you're excited about with the Writing Moments, and then I'll tell you what I'm excited about with it. [00:24:17].370] - Rene Well, I mean, we probably are excited about the same things. Well, first of all, when I was starting out and all this, what I would have given for something like this to help me, there wasn't anything like this around. So I think that people should really understand what a unique offer this is and how much it will help them be accountable. To writing and get into that routine. [00:24:53].270] - Gena All right. Yeah, I'm excited one like you're saying. I also think that just sometimes writing can be such a solitary act. Well, it is a solitary act. But to come together with a tribe of people to do it and to see the other people in a safe place with people that understand the struggles and just what it takes. I'm excited about that. But what I'm really excited about is I'm excited about the long haul. I'm excited to hear the projects that come out of these that people will be able to say yes, I met every week for an hour and maybe it was the catalyst. Maybe it was all they've got or maybe it was the catalyst for then I started doing writing on my own several times a week, just whatever. But the projects that are going to come out of this, I'm excited to see 100%. [00:25:52].370] - Chris So if you want to become a part of a Writing Moment, if you think that sounds interesting and you want more information, be sure to subscribe to the email list at writingmomentum.com. We promise not to spam you. We're just going to let you know about what's coming up. Meanwhile, if you've enjoyed this podcast rate, review, subscribe, share it with others and we hope that you continue to have Writing Momentum. We will see you again next week.