Reading, writing, and reviewing are top priorities in my life. I devote a lot of time to these three things. There are few things I'd rather do, but they aren't my only priorities. My husband, my children, and my grandchildren have first claim on my time and attention. The two days I spend serving in the temple rank among my top priorities as well. There are also my extended family and a whole raft of temporary priorities such as mopping my kitchen floor, weeding a flower bed, teaching a class, doing the laundry, balancing our checkbooks, visiting teaching, and so on. I'm no different from other writers. We have lives to lead that come before our characters' lives. (I've only ever met one writer who can afford a maid.) But I always come back to reading, writing, and reviewing.
It's important for each individual, not just writers, to discover their priorities. Writing isn't the only occupation that requires the ability to self-start and to set priorities, but since I'm in the writing business that's what I'm going to talk about. People who need someone else to wake them up, set their goals, and propel them toward the computer won't accomplish much. Writers who carve out their own time and predetermine what constitutes a qualified interruption are more likely to succeed than those who spend most of their precious writing time playing. The writer with a story to tell, a determination to get it published, and the ability to determine the priorities that will get him/her to that goal will succeed.Establishing priorities is much like goal setting. First it is necessary to decide what matters most. For most of us, family comes before career, talents, or personal wants. Next comes needs; you know the routine; food, shelter, safety. Eventually we get down to things like careers, vocations, talents, and ambitions. For a writer, this usually means getting published and like so many of life's goals, much of the pleasure is derived from the journey.
Important aspects of making writing a priority are self-discipline, education, reading, and finishing. Self discipline is important if writing is a true priority. Facebook and games are fun and the networking can be beneficial, but they can steal a lot of valuable writing time, as can TV. If, like me, a person can't write until the beds are made and breakfast dishes are done, then do them first and fast. Eliminate as many distractions as possible as quickly as possible, then get to work.
Education doesn't always mean formal education. Writers can save themselves a lot of time and disappointment by reading books on writing, following up web sites devoted to writing instruction, and by attending conferences and seminars. Being part of a critique group can help a writer overcome some major stumbling blocks to becoming an accomplished and published author.
I know several writers who claim they don't have time to read. Frankly their work shows it. Reading what others in your genre write can be invaluable to discovering techniques, errors to avoid, and provide insight into why readers buy those writers' books. Reading in other genres broadens the background a writer brings to his/her own writing.
Finishing is an essential priority. Writers who allow themselves to be distracted by other book ideas tend to have dozens of partial manuscripts lying around, but no contracts and no books on store shelves. If a super idea occurs while working on something else, jot down a few notes and shove it in a drawer, then get back to finishing the manuscript at hand.
Modern life is so filled with distractions, information overload, enticing choices, and responsibilities, it can be overwhelming. Setting priorities eliminates some of life's emotional and physical clutter.
This month for the October Wish List Contest I'd like to hear about your priorities, your stories of how you've set your priorities, and how you stick to them. I'd also like to hear how you handle interruptions to those priorities you've set.