For the next few months, I’ll be sharing insights and lessons that I learned while writing my first Young Adult novel The Beast of Macon Hollow in a series entitled “The Writer’s Handbook.”
Time. It’s the one gift we’ve all been given. Granted, some may have more than others (looking at the big picture), but we’re all given just twenty-four hours in a day. More often than not, it’s how we choose to use those hours that make the difference between our success and failure as a writer. So how do I spend my time?
Like so many of us, my life is hectic. I’m married, work a full time job, and have a fourteen-year-old son. With each one of those responsibilities comes a certain amount of time that must be devoted to their health and wellbeing. And speaking of maintaining health and wellbeing, I can’t forget my own—sometime in the midst of meeting my obligations, I need to exercise and sleep. However, when each of these responsibilities has been satisfied, I have “free time.”
In economic terms, my free time could be called “disposable time.” It’s the time left over after all the “bills are paid.” If my free time was money, it’s the funds I could use for things not included in my monthly budget (like buying a new pair of shoes, a DVD, or any number of things). Why do I bring this up? Because it’s my disposable time that will ultimately define me as a writer.
To be a successful writer, it takes a commitment of my time. In my case, it’s my disposable time that I must commit to achieving my long-term goal—to have a successful second career (as an author) within ten years. I used to think my disposable time was very limited, but I’ve learned over the years that I have more than it may appear at first glance. For instance, much of my writing is done in my head, long before I sit down at the keyboard. I often find myself “writing” during the most mundane of tasks, such as while I’m shaving, while I’m driving, or (more often than not) during the wee hours of the morning when I’m supposed to be sleeping. We all have these chunks of time to use as we see fit. And we all use this time in one fashion or another. It’s my choice to use them to make progress on my next title as opposed to…say, burning precious brainpower on wondering who will win the latest reality show competition. But there’s a cost to making that choice—an opportunity cost (another economic term, although I’m not an economist—I swear!).
The opportunity cost is the cost of the item I gave up in order to make the choice I made. In other words, if I chose to spend my evening on my laptop, deep in the heart of my next title, then I gave up the chance to spend my time elsewhere. Some opportunity costs are small (missing an ACC basketball game on TV), while others may be large (missing some impromptu family time). In any case, however, my commitment to meeting my writing goals costs me something.
Writing—and becoming a successful author—takes sacrifice. At the very least, it’s a commitment to forego wasteful television viewing, Facebook browsing, or Twitter chatting. At other times (perhaps down the road when I’m facing a strict deadline), it may mean sacrificing sleep or family time. In all cases, however, it takes a commitment to manage my time wisely. It takes a commitment to make the most of my “disposable time” so that, one day, I can be a full-time (successful) writer. And then, maybe, I’ll have a little more time to watch reality TV.
How about you? Have you identified your “disposable time?” What can you do differently to ensure you devote time to your writing goals?
T. C. Harrelson is the author of The Beast of Macon Hollow, available from Second Wind Publishing