Ask Stella – Dana Pearce

I absolutely love your books…..I noticed that you are a lawyer. How do you find the time with such a demanding career as a lawyer to write such incredible stories? I just love your characters.

Dear Dana,

Thank you, so much, for the compliment. Seeing that kind of praise helps me stay motivated! And, thank you for your question— it gives me a chance to talk about time, one of my obsessions.

While my preoccupation with time’s passage is a great motivator, I’m the first to admit that it also comes with drawbacks. In addition to writing, and working as a lawyer, I juggle the many demands that come with life, and sometimes it all becomes overwhelming. For now, though, I’ll focus on the positive, and how I try to organize my life so that I have time to write.

Mono-tasking in a Multi-tasking life

I’m most productive when I can focus on one thing at a time, so I schedule my days in ways that avoid multi-tasking. I’ve always been a list maker. Sometimes, when there is too much going on, I even write an hour-by-hour schedule.

After I finished the first draft of Concierge earlier this year, I adapted my calendaring/scheduling method to the bullet journal method:

The photos show my bullet journal when I was putting it together. The Bullet Journal, a company that makes great journals designed for bullet journaling, has plenty of how-to tips. My journal isn’t simply a calendar – it’s a system that helps me be more mindful of how I’m actually spending my time.

Organizing it was fun. I used monthly calendars from Karen Adams, rolls and rolls of washi tape, and colored pens. For writing daily schedules, lists, and weekly goals, I use Ticonderoga pencils, with a nice eraser nearby, so that I can tweak my schedules and goals as the hours/days/weeks fly by. I love matte-finish black triangular pencils (“Tri-Conderoga”); I use them all day- whether I’m writing fiction, working at the legal job, or making lists in my bullet journal. If you have a thing for pencils, try them sometime – the unique shape makes them addictive.

Focusing on Creative Writing

With this background, you’ve probably guessed that I schedule creative writing time. I’m an early morning person by nature, and a happy coincidence is that my creative writing flows best in the morning. When I’m in the first-draft phase of a novel, I try to spend a few very early morning hours on writing every day. I write in the scheduled time, no matter how I feel, no matter where I am, no matter what else is happening. No. Matter. What.

One of my favorite places to write is my home office, which I use when I’m not traveling. As I was writing Deceived, I adapted the space so I could better focus on creative writing. (My rationale is explained in an earlier blog). I set up the office as my private space, with a door that I can close to keep the world out, and two desks and two chairs. One desk (the one pictured above with me in it) is solely dedicated to creative writing; the other is for everything else – author tasks, personal tasks, etc.

When I’m writing, my world is reduced to my thoughts, the music that I play, and the words that I put on the page. I turn off social media, email, and the phone. Sometimes, my husband will walk into the office and get my attention, or my papillons will do something that draws my eye, but mostly, that time is only about the story I’m creating. Those hours are my bliss.

When I’m writing, my world is reduced to my thoughts, the music that I play, and the words that I put on the page… Those hours are my bliss.

The giant clock above the two desks never lets me forget how quickly the minutes fade away and inspires me to make the most of my time. When I finished the first solid draft of Concierge earlier this year, I did a lot of cleaning and a bit of redecorating. I added writing prompts all around my office – the prompts might become the subject of a future blog. One thing I added was the plaque on the door, pictured above. It now serves as a reminder of how seriously I need to take my writing time, in addition to the time that needs to be spent on the business of being an author.

I also added the words, “once upon a time” above the two desks, which prompts thoughts of so many wonderful things….

Thank you, Dana, for your question! I loved taking the time to answer it. Feel free to share time management tips in the comment section of this blog. I’m always looking for time-saving tips and ways to maximize productivity.