The Writer’s Audit

It’s the first post of “Writing Wednesday” in the new and improved Mark Fadden’s Blog, and with tax season in high gear, I think it’s time that we borrowed one of the most unpleasant things that you can go through – a tax audit – and use it to make sure that we’re budgeting our writing time correctly. After all, our time is just as important, even more so, than our money. So, what’s good for the IRS Goose is good for our Writing Life Gander.

First, let’s take a look at a typical workday:

24 hours in a day – out of that we’re probably working, getting ready for work, and commuting to and from work around 11 hours a day; let’s give us kids or a hobby, which includes trying to get our daily exercise, so that’s around 3 hours a day; we need to eat – 2 hours for that; finally sleeping, let’s give ourselves 6 hours.  Add ’em up and, wham, there’s 22 hours. So, we have 2 hours a day leftover for writing. Question is, is that enough?

Well, like my statistics professor in college once said, numbers can, and do, lie. While they aren’t lying here, this is a typically workday schedule. Let’s give us 2 days off a week from our day jobs, and throw in a little time to hang out with friends and family, drink a few cervezas, and sleep in a little and we go from having 2 hours free a day to 20 free hours a week (2 hours a day during the week plus 5 hours on Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday). Sounds better, doesn’t it? So, will 20 hours a week give us enough time to not only write, but research, edit, blog, promote, and do everything else there is to do to be a writer in the 21st century?

The answer is, I don’t know.  But like saving and dieting, the proof is whether you actually adhere to your budget. Is your butt in your somewhat uncomfortable writer’s chair and are you actually doing the work? Or are you sitting there playing Angry Birds on your computer and ticked because you just can’t get the little house to crumble the right way to smash the oinking pig?

So let’s say that we’re all being good and we’re doing our work. Let’s take a look at my numbers. For me, I work from the house, so cut commuting out of my work schedule and I free up an hour each day. But, I’m also the primary caregiver for our sons, so add two hours to my kid portion of my day. That puts me around 15 hours a week. Is it enough? If I budget my time, yes. often, I let some of my writing time bleed over into other parts of the day with a little thing I like to call multi-tasking. While I’m riding the exercise bike, I’m doing research by reading a book on the secret service. When I take the kids to the library for story time, I review the 5 pages I wrote the night before. These are small things, but like saving and dieting, small changes add up to big gains over time. Making sure we are using our time wisely can mean the difference between a finished manuscript at the end of a year or starting yet another year with that same old New Year’s Resolution: “This is the year I finish my novel.”

Now it’s your turn. How does your writing audit stack up? How many hours can you devote to writing a day? How much does your actual time compare to your budget?   To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com.

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