Today, I’m honored to have Janet Oberholtzer as my guest in the series on managing your time to make time for the things you love. Enjoy her great advice on running the road and the word race.
I donâ€™t always manage my time well. I procrastinate and then rush like a maniac … like a writer arriving late to a conference table giving out free books. Though I can get a lot done when under pressure, too often itâ€™s not my best work. Recently it dawned on me that thereâ€™s one area of my life where I have learned a few things about managing time … from past failures and successes. I like to run and for the past few years, Iâ€™ve been selecting races a few months in advance, then writing out a plan for my training. A few races have been dismal failures … but others have been successful and Iâ€™ve learned from both.
What I learned from running that I want to use to manage my writing time:
For running: I have to be realistic about how many weeks until the race. I canâ€™t go from 0 to 20 miles in a month. I need to think about what else is going on in my life and about how much energy I can give to the endeavor.
For writing: I need to be realistic about how long it takes to complete a writing project. About five months after being injured in an accident, I decided to tackle writing a memoir. I knew nothing about writing, so I thought I could have it finished by the first anniversary of the accident about seven months later. Unrealistic! And discouraging because I didnâ€™t reach my goal and at the time I didnâ€™t realize how unrealistic it was.
Be willing to learn
For running: When I first started running almost 20 years ago, I knew nothing about it. I put on sneakers and began. Within a month or so, I injured my knee. Then I picked up some running magazines and discovered I had made the typical beginning runnerâ€™s mistake. I ran too fast downhill and stressed my knee. If I had learned a little about running first, I could probably have avoided that injury.
For writing: After beating myself up for not finishing my memoir in seven months, I wanted to give up writing. Instead I decided to see how the heck other writers write. I read books, went to conferences and talked to other writers. This gave me information that helped me set realistic goals and avoid the injury to my psyche of not reaching a (impossible) goal.
For running: Once the race is selected and the plan made … it doesnâ€™t happen automatically. I have to do what the plan says. One race that was a failure was because I wasnâ€™t fully dedicated to my plan. Oh I had a plan, a â€˜perfectâ€™ plan. It was typed out in an easy-to-read format. I printed it and put it on my dresser, so I knew what to do each day. But I only haphazardly followed it … some days I did the runs and/or the cross-training, other days I didnâ€™t. On race day, my haphazardness left me undertrained, cursing and forced to walk more than run.
For writing: When I have a realistic goal and plan, I have to follow it. It doesnâ€™t happen automatically … I have to put my butt in the chair and write. Instead of only thinking and talking about it. Instead of getting something to eat. Instead of refining my plan (one more time). Instead of cleaning the bathroom. Instead of checking Facebook, Twitter and more.
For running: The successful races happened when I stayed focused on the goal through the good, bad and ugly. If the temps drop to zero or climb to a hundred, I have to find ways to train … even if it means using the dreadmill in the winter or getting up at dark oâ€™clock in the summer to beat the heat.
For writing: To be successful as a writer, I need to stay focused on writing. This will mean skipping other things … TV shows, extra sleep and maybe ignoring the current game/trial/wedding â€˜of the centuryâ€™ to focus on writing. It might even mean skipping a few days of reading blogs (as long as you still read Andi’s and mine) Or maybe staying home from a conference â€˜everyoneâ€™ is going to, so you can put to use what you learned at the last conference.
Now that Iâ€™ve thought through what has helped me prepare for successful races, I hope to use the same disciplines to be more productive as a writer.
Have you learned things in another areas of life that have benefited your writing?
Janet Oberholtzer continues to learn about running and writing by blogging at JanetOber and connecting with others on Facebook and Twitter. After five years instead of seven months, Janet has managed to finish that memoir, Because I Can and it will be published this fall by Rhizome Publishing.