Time & expectation management

I have half a mind to post a picture of my schedule in this entry.

You know, just so all of you can laugh at it a bit.

“Marisa, you seem to set very unrealistic goals or have very high expectations.”


How do you find the time to write?

This is such a common question that people ask. So many people try to answer it including Ms Juliette Wade.

And the answers are pretty much the same across the board.

How do you eat an elephant? A bite at a time.


Bit by bit. Bit by bit.

From January till the end of May this year, I decided to do something potentially brave and quite definitely very foolish.

I did the equivalent of quitting my job. Or nearly.

I deferred my Masters degree. I cut down on the amount of paid work I did. I dropped volunteering commitments.

All so I could work on the book. I pretty much lived below or pretty close to the poverty line for about four or five months so I had time to spend writing my book.

I did all sorts of mad things to trick myself into writing the book in this new found time that I had.

  • I wrote every time I was on public transport.
  • I realised I could write quite a lot in a very short period of time while surrounded by reggae music. That worked till they stopped those free Sunday sessions at Kulcha.
  • I varied my schedule month by month trying to find some sort of balance between my normal insomniac hours and the best time to write during the day.
  • I moved my writing software onto another laptop that had no internet connection.
  • I took on an hour long trek across the city via public transport almost every day so I could use a friend’s spare bedroom as a second office/writing retreat.

The result?

Come the self imposed deadline at the end of May, I had a chunk of the novel done. Not all of it but a rather large chunk of it. And I knew what I had to do to get it finished.


So how do you find time to write?

1) Look at yourself. Not everyone works the same way or under the same conditions. I for one am amazed that writing this book is so different from writing another particular story. So figure out how you work when working on the book you want to write.

2) Set up some sort of schedule – daily, weekly, monthly that works with how you work and then defend it to death.

Day147/365 Interview schedule by wenzday01 via Flickr

3) Pick yourself up when you fall off the wagon. Because I did quite a lot and the only thing that stopped the agonising was getting back on again.


4) Understand that to the rest of the world you are mad. Maybe you have kids, or a job or something similar and they all think you’re stark raving crazy for not paying more attention to them instead of to this book that you want to get out.

I won’t lie to you. This is a balancing act. It is hard. But I seem to recall telling you at the start that putting pen to paper and finding words was far easier than actually making yourself sit down to hold the pen in the first place.

5) If you absolutely need to, trick yourself into writing. I certainly needed to.

6) Take the time to talk to yourself. Seriously. Obviously this may not apply if you’re writing non-fiction but when my mother says “You haven’t written much about Nivi yet, why?” and I start to answer her: “Well, she goes through a lot in the book and I am frankly quite a bit scared of having to remember my past experiences in order to write hers…”

… that’s when the light bulb goes on over your head.


Idea by annais via Flickr

I am scared of reliving certain things when dealing with a certain character – that’s partially why this book is not done yet and now I know what I need to do next: push through the fear.

Because the only reason I can admit that I am scared of something is because I know I am the kind of person who doesn’t put up with that sort of thing for very long. Pfft! Fear? Debilitating, yes. Futile, no. And now I know what I need to do whereas I ran around in circles before going “Ahh, what is it? What is it?”


(And yes, you may, for the purposes of humour, assume that I did literally run around in circles yelling that).

7) Be kind to yourself – no one else will be. Of course, you do have lovely friends and family who do support you. But at the same time you also have those friends who mean well and have the best of intentions but still cannot understand why you took a year to write 20,000 words for a thesis but are taking so much longer to write fiction.

You know, the people who want you to finish NOW. NOW, GOD DAMN IT, MARISA, WHY IS IT NOT DONE YET???

Yes, those people. Who have never written a book before in their lives much less this sort of book about depression and isolation and black humour and quite frankly three people dealing with not so very nice things that most of us tend to run away and hide from.

And that’s when you say, that it’s ok. That you finished a chunk of it before your deadline so now there is less to do and you’re further along than before. That maybe writing this book is something you need to do in chunks. That maybe you’re only just starting to learn how to be organised so this is not surprising.

It’s ok if you don’t make it through NaNoWriMo. It’s ok if you do your writing in chunks. It’s ok if you don’t make the deadline.

It’s ok if you get something out of it.

8 ) It’s not just about writing. I think this is true of most creative endeavours. It’s never just about what you are creating. You learn a lot about yourself in the process. I know a lot more about what I will and won’t put up with from friends for instance.

I also know that I am more irritable when I am “with book” than when I am without. It’s been a six year labour now and counting after all. I’m more opinionated too though I am not sure that’s a good thing but there you go.

It’s simply because the book comes first.

9) How best to find time to write? Make the book come first.


“Marisa, you have very unrealistic expectations.”

“Yes, but just imagine if I could meet them?”


Expectations by R_rose via Flickr



Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is currently based in Melbourne.


    • Marisa

      LOL! There might be some of me in Nivi but she is NOT the character that is the most like me! Try harder to figure that one out! 😀

      What actually does work, internet or not, is writing everything important on paper, then typing it in and adding everything else around it. I double my word count that way and make sure I don’t forget anything. If I type from scratch, then I get too caught up in making part one of a scene perfect while trying desperately to remember that awesome thing I want to put in about twenty paragraphs later until I get to paragraph twenty.

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