Making Time to Write - by Ginny Swart

Time-management for writers
You want to write, you've got a great idea for a story, you've made a few notes - but your life is just too busy to find the time to get behind your computer.


Sound familiar?


The trick is managing your time in a way that allows at least an hour of "me-time" or rather, writing time, in every day.

Find your best writing time.

First, decide when you feel the freshest and most creative.

For some people, this might be 5.30 in the morning, before the rest of the family is up and demanding your attention. There are plenty of well-known writers who do their best writing at this time and have written entire novels in that snatched hour before they have to go to work or take the kids to school

Or you might be a night owl - able to write when everyone else is in front of the TV or in bed, leaving you in a silent house. No telephone ringing, no distractions, just you and your writing. You'd be amazed at how much you can write in an hour of undisturbed computer time.

On the other hand, there are a very few people who are happy writing at odd moments. They leave their computer switched on and grab the odd fifteen minutes here and there. If that works for you, fine! You're one of the lucky ones.

Learn to say NO.

Once you've found the writing time that suits you best, and you've carved yourself a regular writing slot in your day, learn to say no to family and friends who want you to do something else. Tell yourself (and your family) that writing is an extension of your job. It's something that has to be done and you can't put it off. They'll soon learn to respect the fact they have a writer in their midst!

For most writers, it's best not to try and split yourself in two, by listening to homework or making supper while you dash back to your computer in between. You'll lose focus and you'll end up by doing neither task successfully.

Find the environment that suits you.

If you're a tidy soul at heart, and hate being surrounded by a disorganized desk, it's worth spending five minutes tidying up. Then you won't be distracted. But if you're one of those people who work best with the kids in the same room, the TV on and someone playing loud music upstairs, that fine. Just don't allow your surroundings to give you an excuse to procrastinate!

Lose the guilt!

It's no good sitting down to write when you know you promised to clean the car/ wash the dog/ take the cat to the vet. You need to get important chores out of the way and the best way to do this is make a list of Absolute Must-do's for that day. Once they're done, close the door and write. The small stuff can wait until tomorrow. (This doesn't apply to you early risers!)

The Muse doesn't visit every day.

So yesterday you started well, but...

You're ready to write, so you open your document and stare at the screen. You re-read what you wrote yesterday and you tweak a word here and a word there.

But new words just won't come. You hit the delete button after every few sentences. Today's writing session is a disaster.

Relax! This isn't the dreaded Writer's Block - your story just needs to bubble inside a little. Go away and think about it. Take the dog for a walk. Skip your writing for today if nothing seems to come right.

Someone (it must have been a writer) said, "Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." But if that 1% is missing today, don't worry. It'll be back tomorrow.

And the good thing about writing short stories is: there is no deadline. No one is demanding that story from you by the end of today. There is always another issue of that magazine next week, or next month.

Set clear goals.

On the other hand, making a decision to finish a story by the end of next week is a probably a good idea. It gives you a focus.

Get support.

Joining a Writer's Circle is also an excellent boost. You usually have monthly assignments that you are expected to finish and it's good discipline.

Don't be distracted.

If your computer tells you that you have an e-mail, ignore it!

If you always feel like a cup of coffee the minute you sit down, make it before you start writing. If you often get up looking for a snack, take that piece of celery to the computer. (You were going to snack on a bit of celery, weren't you?)

If you need to research a fact that you must have in order to move your story along, Google it, record it and close the Internet. You can easily get sidetracked reading other interesting, but irrelevant, stuff. Save that for after your writing time.


About the author:

Ginny Swart started writing short stories in 2001, and to date has sold over 450 short stories to women's magazines all over the world.

Her more serious work has appeared in literary publications in South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand and on the Web. In 2003 she won the esteemed UK The Real Writers Prize from over 4000 entrants.

Ginny tutors the Short Story Writing for Magazines Course at the The Writers' College.

Feedback on Ginny's course from past students

“It was a great course. Ginny was excellent. She allowed me to pursue my own agenda whilst keeping me within the confines of the course. Her feedback was specific and relevant to me, my writing and the course itself. The course was great for extending my skills, increasing my confidence and providing opportunities and frameworks for writing.” Simon Goodwin, Short Story Writing

“Although the course was challenging, I enjoyed each and every module. The course notes encouraged me to discover my strong points and weaknesses. Ginny's the best. She supported and encouraged me throughout and I'm grateful. She developed confidence in me which I never had before. The Writer's College is the best in our country.” Stella Bopape, Short Story Writing for Magazines

“It's such a practical course and I learnt so much from writing so many complete stories. Ginny was always so fast with her feedback, which was always constructive, detailed and honest. She does not only tell you what you're doing wrong, but how you can fix it in a way that suits you and your style best. She was open-minded and a pleasure to trade ideas with! I wanted to overcome the barrier of writing a good story, but not being able to battle it out to create a final, well-rounded product. Doing the course is exactly the boost any aspiring writer needs without being influenced by too much technical detail.” Tania Terblanche, Short Story Writing for Magazines

“The Writers’ College was the only company that offered such specific courses combined with flexibility. My objective was to get back into writing, finish some pieces and improve my writing confidence. I've achieved all of these and I hope to have my first sale to a magazine in the near future. It was a good experience and a valuable learning curve. There were a lot of resources, I would like the forum to have been more engaged but it's still new so that will come with time. Ginny was awesome! She gave great feedback and was very supportive and motivating without being pushy. She was super speedy with marking assessments and very patient when I was slugging along at a snail’s pace.” Christie Williams, Short Story Writing Course.

“The course was challenging for me, since I'm more into writing novels, but I had a lot of fun and learned a great deal. Ginny is simply great! She's right to the point yet kind and inspirational! Gives you a lot of advice and courage. She's a great writer herself and an excellent tutor; it's sad that the course came to an end.” Natashja Singleton, Short Story Writing for Magazines

"It really was great fun, and very stimulating. Took me back to Varsity days and theological college with the pressure of deadlines for submission! Ginny was great! May well do another course! She was mature and sensitive, with a wonderful sense of humour! Amazingly prompt with her feedback and knows her course extremely well! A very worthwhile experience, pitched at a very practical level, not too academic, and extremely stimulating. Strongly recommended." Ray Horocks, Short Story Writing Course

“The course is thorough and well thought out. I liked the clear directions for presenting one’s story and the many contacts given. Ginny Swart is an excellent tutor, always ready to answer questions and to help with difficulties. She is a credit to the college. I enjoyed the course very much.” Elizabeth Macdonald, Short Story Writing Course

"Ginny is an excellent tutor. Her kind comments help you to correct your mistakes whilst still encouraging you at the same time. Despite her huge portfolio, Ginny manages to make you feel that you too could someday be successful. I have learnt so much from her. I started off just wanting to see if I could write and now I am submitting every story I finish. Overall, the course was excellent. Good value for money!" Yael Barham-Smith, Short Story Writing Course

“Ginny was very supportive throughout the course. Her feedback was fast, fair, always constructive, encouraging and motivating. I had loads of fun doing the course. Everything was very good and Ginny was excellent.” Belinda Jubber, Short Story Course

"Ginny was fantastic. She was quick to assist me and always managed to mark my assignments quickly. She gave me the confidence and knowhow that has been holding me back from writing seriously. My aim with this course was to put into practice all that I have learnt with my studies (I obtained my Honours degree in Theory of English Literature at the beginning of the year) and to get objective feedback on my writing. This course was a great help to me and I would definitely recommend it to any aspiring writer!" Hannah Green, Short Story Writing

"I thoroughly enjoyed the course and benefitted from the material, Ginny was an outstanding tutor.....P.S. You guys really do provide an outstanding service to us would-be writers." Varsh Patel, Short Story Writing Course

”Can’t say enough about my tutor really. Ginny was fantastic! I loved her prompt marking and chatty emails. Right from the word go, Ginny was more than friendly and very, very encouraging. This made logging on when waiting for the assignment results all the more exciting. We are still in touch, something I treasure very much. Every single one of my aspirations was met. I loved the discipline of working on the set assignments and also that my imagination was getting a workout. But what is really exciting is that all in the same week I got my course report and sold a story to a magazine!” Stephanie Attwood, Short Story Course

"I have to say this was one of the most enjoyable things that I have ever done. I am so thrilled with my result and found the feedback to be very useful in every regard and I have learned a lot. Can I also just say Ginny was wonderful! She has so knowledgeable and although strict with her assessment, gave very positive feedback." Ina du Toit, Short Story Writing

"I was very impressed by the service offered at the College. I was pleasantly surprised that the College was highly efficient and that I received my tutorials immediately. Ginny Swart is a brilliant tutor and I appreciated receiving her comments with every module. I have grown as a writer and will continue pursuing my writing dreams" Sumi Singh, Short Story Writing

"Ginny was not just a teacher; she became my friend and confidant during this course and I will miss her dearly." Sana Patel, Short Story Writing

"I could not have found a better college. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and Ginny is a marvelous tutor. Couldn't have been better." Gillian Palliser, Short Story Writing Course

"It's been an enriching experience and I am definitely a better writer than I was at the start of the course. It's been a pleasure and privilege to have Ginny as my lecturer. She taught me a great deal, and those lessons will continue to be of great value. Thanks." Cornelia Booysen, Short Story Writing Course

"I think you are the best distance college for creative writing. The universities couldn't offer me such a course - I tried them. Have so enjoyed your short story writing course. I was about to give up on the last assignment when I received your email which said 'keep going, keep writing, show up at the page.' It was the necessary push that I needed so I did just that. Thanks! The course met my objectives in every way. It was exactly what I wanted." Ann Hoffman, Short Story Writing Course

"Ginny is approachable and professional. Her feedback was prompt, honest, encouraging and the guidance she gave me is something I truly appreciate. With her assistance I am more confident, knowledgeable and positive about my future. Thanks Ginny!" Marie Duddle, Short Story Writing

"You have a great college offering a wide variety of courses, and after a spell of writing for magazines, I might return to do the novel course or maybe the children's story course. Such delightful anticipation. I wish to thank you and Ginny for looking after me so well." Lesley Maher, Short Story Writing Course

"Ginny is an excellent lecturer and was very helpful and extremely quick at getting back to me whenever I submitted an assignment. She also gave me a lot of advice and answered all sorts of questions I had." Carol Reed, Short Story Writing

"Just wanted to say a very big THANK YOU to Ginny Swart who has been a fantastic motivator and mentor since my very first assignment of the course. I'm learning to be cleaner and meaner with words, and it's deeply encouraging receiving her comprehensive feedback. THANKS A MILL GINNY, YOU'RE A STAR!" Widaad Munga, Short Story Writing

"Ginny is a wonderful tutor – her feedback is always encouraging and highly motivating and you get this incredible sense of safety – like she’s a caring and nurturing ‘mom’ rather than a tutor and advisor. Thank you, Ginny – for everything! " Karen Jones, Short Story Course

"Thank you so much! I enjoyed the course through and through. Ginny was awesome. I wish all my lecturers were like her!" Talitha van Rensburg, Short Story Writing

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