Today, I’m talking to author R.S. Williams about productivity. Rhianne is always working on something, and she’s doing it while working full-time, exercising, and being married… and today, she shares how she balances everything.
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Sarina Langer 00:08
Hello, and welcome to the Writing Sparrow podcast. I’m Sarina Langer, and this podcast is all about writing, publishing and marketing your book. You can find transcripts on my website at sarinalanger.com. Let’s get started!
Sarina Langer 00:28
Hello, and welcome back, friends and Sparrows. It’s the ninth of November 2020, and this is Episode 10. Somebody get me some tinsel or whatever. It’s 10. It’s a big number. And today I’ve got author R.S. Williams with me, Rhianne, and, uhm, we will have a chat about how she is incredibly productive all the time working on all the projects while also working full time. I have no idea how she does it. Hi, Rhi!
R.S. Williams 00:57
Hi, how are you?
Sarina Langer 00:59
Yeah, tired, but also a little bit bouncing off the walls because I’ve had a lot of caffeine today.
R.S. Williams 01:05
Well, that was a very, very generous introduction you did for me then, because, you know, I’m sure I’m about to burst quite a few people’s bubbles.
Sarina Langer 01:14
Well, all I know is that I’m forever in awe of how much you get done, because every time we talk, you have another idea for yet another project. And I’m here struggling with two. So to me, that’s incredibly impressive. Let’s talk about how you juggle that, because you’ve also got a full time job at the same time.
R.S. Williams 01:34
Yeah, yes. So I work full time, Monday to Friday. And if I go to the office, I’m out of my house from half past seven in the morning, and I don’t get home till six o’clock at night.
Sarina Langer 01:43
Oh god, I’m tired. Just hearing that. I sound really spoiled that way. I mean, I work pretty much full time as well, but I think when you just hear the numbers, I mean, that’s nearly 12 hours a day that you’re out. And you still get so many projects done at the same time. It’s not just the writing for you either, because you’ve also got your blog and your website for writers. And you’ve now also just started a Patreon page, I think you’ve also got a Facebook page running. So it just completely baffles me how you get so much done while also working full time. It’s very impressive. And then the one problem or concern that many new writers have is how to fit writing a book around everything else that they need to do like working and keeping a family alive.
R.S. Williams 02:31
Sarina Langer 02:32
So, how do you schedule your week? How do you balance everything?
R.S. Williams 02:36
Um, well, it took me a really long time to figure out what worked for me. So I started writing back in 2015. So it’s taken me quite a long time to get into the routine that I’m in now. I when I was single–I’m currently married…
Sarina Langer 02:57
Congratulations again. I know it was last year, but congratulations.
R.S. Williams 03:01
Thank you. So yeah, when I was single, it was a lot easier because all of my time was my own. I only ever had to worry about being at work. And then when I was at home, I could do whatever I wanted. Whereas now I have to think of work, exercise, seeing my friends, spending time with my husband, seeing my parents because I no longer live with them. And it’s just, when I started, I was like, this is so overwhelming, I genuinely don’t know what to do with myself. And then I went from being an evening writer to being a morning writer, because my husband told me I was spending too much time on my laptop.
Sarina Langer 03:42
Oh, yeah, I know. I know how that goes.
R.S. Williams 03:45
Yeah. So I decided fine. I’m a morning person anyway, I’ll just get up a little bit earlier. And I’ll write while he’s in bed. So that is how my new routine started. And basically what I do is I use Google Calendar and I block out all of my time. So I broke out my commutes, the time I’m at work, the time I sleep. And then whatever’s left I fit in as much as I can.
Sarina Langer 04:12
I am so jealous of you being a morning person because I get up and I am completely useless until I get some tea in me. I just kind of drag myself through the house like a zombie and then I kind of drag myself now to work a bit like a zombie as well, though the fresh air helps. But the idea of getting up and starting to write immediately. I don’t… I do not understand how you do that.
R.S. Williams 04:36
I don’t spring out of bed and go on my computer and write a bajillion words instantly. I…
Sarina Langer 04:43
That’s a big relief to me.
R.S. Williams 04:45
Ya, no, so my alarm goes off at 10 to 5, and I spend 10 minutes mooching around on my phone, checking all my emails and stuff like that, and then my alarm will go off again at five o’clock in the morning. I have a lot of alarms. Then I come into my office and I do a bit of journaling, feed the cats, get my lunch ready for work, then I come back upstairs. And from about quarter to six I write.
Sarina Langer 05:13
I’m just concerned that you’re not getting enough sleep. Are you getting enough sleep?
R.S. Williams 05:18
Yes, good. So, I, over the years, I know that my ideal time for sleep is about seven hours. So by me getting up at 10 to 5, I can go to bed at 10 to 10 and still have seven hours.
Sarina Langer 05:36
Very good. See, I like how organised you are, cause I think our listeners have now realised you have got an incredible amount of work that you get through. But because you’re so organised, that’s fine and you do actually managed to get it done. And I know that on Instagram, you also share every day how much or how many words you’ve written, which is really inspiring to see.
R.S. Williams 06:01
Thank you. Yeah, I mean, I also keep a spreadsheet set. Because in my first few years of writing, I used to tell myself, or I used to have a self limiting belief that I wasn’t ever doing enough.
Sarina Langer 06:15
I get that.
R.S. Williams 06:16
Yeah. And then last year, I was like, let’s actually see how many words I do write in a 12 month period. So from January 1st to December 31st 2019, I wrote down how many words I wrote every single day. And there were 97 days last year where I didn’t write a single word. My lowest word count last year was 24 words.
Sarina Langer 06:40
But you’ve still written that day, so that’s still progress.
R.S. Williams 06:42
Yeah, and then my highest word count was, I think it was something like 1100. And throughout the course of 12 months, I still wrote over 160,000 words.
Sarina Langer 06:51
That’s incredible. And did I just see that right on Instagram this morning, that you’ve just written 3000 words in one session?
R.S. Williams 07:00
Yes, but it’s also kind of cheating, because I’m rewriting. So…
Sarina Langer 07:04
No no no, that counts, that counts. That’s a very, that’s still a good session. It’s still words that end up in your book at the end, don’t they? And, and I mean, you could easily also have cut those words. So either way, it’s words that you had to reconsider, do some editing on and still include in the book, so that’s a very good session still.
R.S. Williams 07:22
Yeah, yeah. So my best session this week was Tuesday, where I wrote 4002.
Sarina Langer 07:27
Ooh! I don’t know how the clapping is going to translate in the transcripts, but I just clapped, and everybody else should applaud you as well for that, because that’s amazing. Well done. So how many projects do you have on the go right now? Everybody, prepare yourseves, this is going to be a big number.
R.S. Williams 07:45
Define what you mean by on the go.
Sarina Langer 07:49
Okay, we have to define it a bit more, do we? Okay, how many works in progress are you currently writing? Not editing or rewriting, just writing? How many are in the first draft?
R.S. Williams 08:00
Sarina Langer 08:00
Okay, let me try that again then. How many are you editing?
R.S. Williams 08:06
Sarina Langer 08:08
Oh, see, that’s, that’s quite a lot. I’m rewriting one book right now. And I’ve kind of had to bench another one for the moment because NaNo is about to happen. Or actually, as this episode goes out, NaNo has already started. And I thought I should probably first focus on that series. So if I don’t count the book that I’m hopefully publishing in November, I’ve got, I’ve got two, maybe three, which two are just kind of sitting on the side. So really, I’ve got one.
R.S. Williams 08:38
So I’m, I’m rewriting Kingdom of Lies, then I’m, I’ve got to do afterwards. So they’re just kind of sitting in the pool at the moment waiting for me to start books two and three. The novella’s with an editor. And then I’ve just finished the first draft of the standalone that I was writing this year. So that’s also waiting to be edited.
Sarina Langer 09:00
Well, I’m still incredibly impressed. And I think at one point, I remember, um, you were posting how on your lunch breaks at work, how you were editing then, or writing then?
R.S. Williams 09:12
Yes. So I haven’t done that in a while, but I end it on my lunch breaks at work when I do my first revisions, because what I basically do I find it easier to edit the first draft if I print it out. I’ll have a hard copy. And then I’ll just take that with me to work and then on my lunch breaks, I’ll read through it in red pen all the changes that I need to make.
Sarina Langer 09:33
Well actually, I think my first drafts are probably way too messy. Well, depending on the book, some are obviously going to be easier than others. But I think if I just took a red pen to the first draft, that would be a really big mess.
R.S. Williams 09:49
Well, I do a lot of extensive outlining. So my outlines for my books, like, so I’ve got, I’ve just outlined three novellas, and each outline is about 3000 words.
Sarina Langer 10:04
Yes, so you’re a plotter like me, I like to outline as well. But I always like to leave myself some wiggle room, so if something does happen, and as we all know, suddenly, there’s a side character who says, actually, I’m going to be your main character now. So that, you know, that’s always going to need some level of rejiggelling. I’m really good with the words today. Didn’t I tell you I had a lot of caffeine? Oh, I hope this is gonna make sense later.
R.S. Williams 10:34
But I know what you mean, though. So even though I have an extensive outline, I tend to use that as posts that I need to get to. But how they get in between those posts is completely up to the characters.
Sarina Langer 10:46
Yeah, I think to be honest, I think that’s how it should be. Because I always, I think I’ve said this to you actually a few times as well, that if you’re stuck, what can really help you get unstuck is to just maybe sit back and not think about what you think should happen, but to ask your character how they would react to the situation that they’re in. But I think we can probably do another podcast episode on how to develop your character and how to save your plot that way.
R.S. Williams 11:11
Sarina Langer 11:12
For now, let’s talk about how amazingly organised you are, and how you set everything around the day job. So obviously, you’ve just said that you’re a morning person, so that’s when you write. Would you say that, like, do you, do you always do it that way, like even at the weekends, or do you take at least that off?
R.S. Williams 11:32
Erm, so, I only write Monday to Friday. And I only have about an hour, an hour and 15 minutes that I push to write on those mornings. And then, depending on how I feel, some Saturday mornings, I will write, but again, it depends on how I feel. So most of the time, I don’t, I take weekends off writing. And my husband works every other Saturday. So every other Saturday I get from whenever I wake up in the morning, until one o’clock in the afternoon to do whatever I want. Which can be really helpful when you have edits and outlines and all the other things to do. So every other Saturday, I tend to schedule in some form of book work. And then I do two evenings a week.
Sarina Langer 12:23
That’s really helpful, I think. I was gonna ask you something, and it’s gone. Don’t you just hate that. So when you write at the weekends, do you feel like that’s just as easy for you? Because every now and again, my partner, he has to go out and work at the weekends. And every time he tells me that this is going to happen, I think, great, I’m going to have some time to do some extra writing, to get in some more words. And then the weekend arrives. And I feel like I’m in a completely different mood at the weekends. And then suddenly, now writing happens, because I think because I’ve now done this for so long that I’ve taken the weekends off, I’ve been quite harsh with myself on that to definitely not do any work, that now I’m just in this mindset that when the weekend comes around, that’s two days that are just for relaxing. So I really struggle then to get into the right mindset for writing.
R.S. Williams 13:13
Yeah, sometimes it can be quite difficult, but other times I just kind of tell myself, as long as you’re doing something towards the book, that’s fine. So whether it be if I’m in an editing phase, I do some editing, if I’ve got a couple of outlines to do, if I write down a couple of scenes, as long as I do something that’s for the book, I tell myself I was productive.
Sarina Langer 13:37
I’m really happy that you just said that actually, because I think many new writers, when they decide, I’m going to write a book, they don’t necessarily realise that there is a lot more to writing a book then literally just writing the book, you know, you also need to become a marketer, you may need… well, you probably… no, you definitely need to do some editing, you may need to design a map for it. And there’s, there’s all these different aspects to it. So you may have a day set aside to work on your book and you may not actually end up doing any writing on that day. But if you’ve still done some kind of world building or character developing or marketing, then all that still counts, all that is still work that you put into your book.
R.S. Williams 14:18
Yeah, I 100% agree with that. Because even though, okay, you haven’t written a couple of words, or 100 words, or however many words you think you should have written, you’ve done a character profile, so you know exactly who that character is, what they like, what they don’t like, what their background was, and how they’re going to fit into your story. That is productive, and that has put you one step further than you were before.
Sarina Langer 14:41
Absolutely. And I think your characters especially, if you know exactly who they are and if you know them like they’re real people, then that is going to save you so many headaches later on.
R.S. Williams 14:52
Sarina Langer 14:54
Oh, my goodness, I shouldn’t have had all this caffeine today. I keep forgetting all the things I was going to ask you. So, let that be a lesson to everyone else.
Sarina Langer 15:03
Do you think that when you’re at work, do you feel like there are things that you can get done there just fine, so you end up reserving them, so that when you are working from home, there are then other things that you can focus on. So I’m back at the day job now, I work in the library, and I have… I need to be really careful, I think, with how I balance my time, because if I’m not, I’m not going to get anything at all done. And then I end up stressed, and that doesn’t help the book at all. So I’m now learning slowly what I can easily do at home, but also what I can reserve for when I’m in the library so that I can maybe get some of those things done there. And then when I’m working from home, that’s one or maybe two fewer things to worry about. So I can then concentrate more on writing. Do you find you do the same thing?
R.S. Williams 15:50
In a similar way, yes. Unfortunately, my day job is far too busy for me to actually ever get writing done, but I do always keep an email open ready to send to myself, because 9 times out of 10, I will always get some form of idea. So I just shove it in an email, send it to myself, and then one, I won’t forget it, and two, I feel like if I was writing an email to a customer that would take up that much time anyway. And as long as I’m not taking hours away from the day job, which I know some people who are in other companies have done. I feel like that that’s the best way for me. Because otherwise, I tend to come home with like 17 scrap bits of paper and I don’t know what they’re for.
Sarina Langer 16:41
Ah, goodness, I’ve tried that once, I think, when I first outlined my Blood Wisp trilogy, right back when I still thought I would have three novellas for it. I had, I think, I was sitting, well, just at work at the weekend, I didn’t have a notebook with me, and I just wrote down all these little outlines on just little pieces of paper. And it was quite annoying afterwards to make sense of those and just put them back in order because it all got shuffled in my bag even though I had them in a notebook. So that was annoying. But I always carry a notebook with me normally, and I also have an app now on my phone that I can use basically as a notebook just in case I haven’t got a physical one with me. So basically, I will always have some kind of notebook with me.
R.S. Williams 17:26
Yeah, I mean, there have been times where it’s been quiet at my day job where I’m like, hmm, maybe I could try and do something. I tend to do a lot of outlines at my day job because again, it’s shorter, it’s quicker to write down, and it’s just quick and easy to try and… hide’s probably not the best way to describe it, but obviously hide it from the fact I’m not actually doing any work.
Sarina Langer 17:52
I think that’s an important thing to consider, isn’t it, that it’s well and good you thinking that you might have time to do some work for your book at the day job, but maybe make sure first that your boss doesn’t mind. Because you really don’t want to get fired over that before you can afford it.
R.S. Williams 18:07
Sarina Langer 18:08
So do make sure. I’m really lucky to work with, with people who are very supportive of what I do. And some of them have read my books, and some of them have even been beta readers in the past. So I’ve been really lucky with that. But obviously not every boss is going to be that understanding of it. So before you jump in, don’t make any assumptions. Maybe just see if they mind that if it is quiet enough, maybe see if they would mind you getting some work for your book done. And you know, bear in mind, it doesn’t have to be writing or editing, maybe you need to do some world building, or maybe you need to do some kind of research. And maybe that’s more okay than actually trying to write 1000 words.
Sarina Langer 18:51
So, um, what I would like from you, because, again, I’m forever in awe of how productive you are and how much you get done, is two kinds of tips for our listeners. So the first: do you have any tips for fitting writing your book around also working full time?
R.S. Williams 19:11
Tracking. Track your days. So when I decided that I wanted to change my routine and make it more productive for myself, I downloaded an app called Toggl. And basically you just turn it on when you start doing something and you turn it off when you finish and it tells you how long it took you to do it. So I used to do it for everything. So I did it when I went in the shower, when I drove to work, while I was at work, how long my lunch break was. I did that for about a week. And then you can kind of see how much time you’re spending on doing other things and where your free time is. And then the other thing I would say is time-block, because even if… I know it sounds really silly, but if you’ve blocked out half an hour to go and wash your hair, that means that’s half an hour that you don’t have to write and then, then you might find that, okay, well, if I move washing my hair to five o’clock, that means I’ve got an hour before I cook dinner at seven where I could get some writing in.
Sarina Langer 20:08
I think that’s a really good plan, because I think quite often you just don’t realise how much time you actually have until you really take such a close look at it. So it may feel a little bit obsessive at first, but actually, once you do it, you realise, you know, maybe you’ve had half an hour there, or maybe you’ve got an hour there where you would maybe just be watching TV or maybe just scroll through your phone. So all that is potentially really good writing time.
R.S. Williams 20:34
Yeah. When I, when I did it… So I recently rejigged my routine the other week. And when I had finished putting in all my, like, I call them non-negotiables–so sleep, the day job, the commute, and exercise for me, those, those four are non negotiables–and when I put those all in, I was like, crap, I actually have like four hours a day where I could, where I have nothing scheduled in.
Sarina Langer 21:00
Four hours! That’s amazing. And you wouldn’t have known that if you hadn’t really taken a close look at how much time you spend doing various things. I think it’s really easy, as I’ve just said, to just assume that you haven’t got any time because you’re already working full time. And obviously, you also need to eat and sleep at some point, so I think it’s quite easy to jump to the conclusion that you haven’t got any time to do anything else. But actually, if you take a close look at it, like you’ve done, maybe you actually have four hours free. Think of how much writing you could do in that time. And it doesn’t even have to be for all those four hours, you know, maybe just half an hour, you could end up maybe with 500 words. Think how soon you might be able to get your book done if you set that aside just three days a week.
R.S. Williams 21:48
Yeah, it does amount to quite a bit. And then I also realised that I tend to have my Sunday evenings, I, I used to do my weekly planning. But I realised that doing it on a Sunday made me less motivated for the week following. So now I plan my week on a Saturday and have a relaxing Sunday. And because I’ve relaxed and I’ve chilled out, and I’ve not done anything, and then I’m super productive on a Monday.
Sarina Langer 22:17
See, that’s why I’m not trying not to do the laundry at the weekend. It’s just more work, isn’t it! It’s such a grown up problem to have. That’s how you know I’m no longer a teenager, I’m 30 now. That’s definitely what I try to do as well. I’m really strict with myself of always taking the weekends off, I’m even turning off my social media notifications now. Because then that way, when I come back to it on Monday, I’m really motivated to come back to it. And I don’t feel as burned out as I did before when I also still used social media all throughout the weekend, because I’ve had that break. It’s really relaxing.
R.S. Williams 22:54
Sarina Langer 22:56
And my other question for you, the other tip that I would like to ask from you is a general productivity tip. What would you advise people to do if they don’t feel like they have that, like they’re being very productive or they don’t know how to be more productive.
R.S. Williams 23:12
So I was in a writing group the other week, and a couple of people were saying, oh, I really don’t feel like writing, I’m in a bit of a slump, I don’t know what to do. And I was like, just write one word. Just write one word, because it’s one word that you wouldn’t have had yesterday. And they were like, I never thought of it that way before. And when they wrote one word, they tended to write more words, because they would write a whole sentence, and a whole sentence is better than nothing.
Sarina Langer 23:40
And you don’t need much time at all to just write one word. I mean, you could technically… I think I knew someone once who wrote his entire book on his phone.
R.S. Williams 23:49
Sarina Langer 23:50
And that to me just completely blows my mind, because my autocorrect is absolutely terrible. So my phone drives me insane just writing a normal text message. So to write my entire book on there, to me, is just so inconceivable. But if you think of it, as you said, to just write one word, if you feel like you haven’t got any time at all to write, just the one word, and then chances are that because you started with that, you’ll probably finish the sentence, and then maybe by the time you finish the sentence, you’ll feel then more likely to maybe do a whole paragraph, and then suddenly, maybe you’ve got 50 words. And you didn’t even think that you could to one. That’s amazing. Well done.
R.S. Williams 24:30
Yeah. And then I also, erm, after I said that she was, this girl was like, oh, yeah, no, that’s a really good idea, I’ll try that. And then she came back and said, Well, what happens if once I’ve written that one word, I don’t feel like writing anymore? So don’t force it. Because the more you try and force it, the more you’ll get blocked.
Sarina Langer 24:47
Yeah. And I think that’s especially hard to do right at the beginning before you got into the habit of writing all the time. Or at least maybe five, you know, five days a week or whatever your routine is going to be. It’s your routine, do whatever works for you. But as, you know, as with any habit, it’s always hardest at the beginning. So if you’re sitting down, maybe for the first time to start writing and it’s a bit difficult, don’t worry about that being a problem forever. Because once you get used to it, your brain is going to get into that habit of right, I sit down to write, therefore I’m going to get this done now.
R.S. Williams 25:22
Yeah, and I’ve changed the way, as I said, I changed my routine up a little bit. So while I now have an office in my house, and I find that when I sit down to work at my computer in my office, I’m a lot more productive than I am if I sit with my laptop in front of the telly.
Sarina Langer 25:41
Yeah, definitely. No, I’ve tried that and it just doesn’t work for me. But I get distracted incredibly easily. I mean, I can’t even have music on when I write. If I do, it needs to be instrumental. Anything with words and I can no longer focus on writing anything myself. I’m terrible.
R.S. Williams 25:59
Yeah, I’ve recently got into like, instrumental music as well. So movie and game scores, and a bit of Lindsey Stirling. Loving that at the moment.
Sarina Langer 26:09
While they’ve… Things like game music, they’ve been written specifically to help you focus. So if you struggle to, if you struggle to get the words down, maybe consider something like that, you know, some, some video game scores or movie scores, because they have literally been written to help you focus on something.
R.S. Williams 26:29
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Sarina Langer 26:30
So they might just help you write a book as well. I’ve actually got a playlist specifically for writing, and it’s all just various music from my favourite games, like Morrowing and Elder Scrolls Online and the Witcher and Dragon Age. It’s the best playlist, and it’s all instrumental. So I also get into really epic mood while I write because the music is really epic. But I just know that if there was even just humming in there, my brain would go, what’s that, do you want me to pay attention to this? It really, there can’t be any form of voice in there.
Sarina Langer 27:06
All right, so to sum up, your tips are generally for productivity, to just start writing and see how it goes and general for writing while also trying to work full time. See if you can maybe put a schedule together, see how long it takes you to do various things like showering or going to work, and figure out from there how much time you actually have available. It might surprise you.
R.S. Williams 27:33
Sarina Langer 27:35
Okay, well, thank you so much for stopping by, Rhi. It was really nice to talk to you again.
R.S. Williams 27:40
Thank you for having me. I’m honest, honestly, I’m honoured to have been part of this.
Sarina Langer 27:44
Oh, no, please. My podcast is too small to be an honour for anyone, but thank you very much. Really nice chatting to you. And I hope that this has helped some of you maybe see that actually, you have more time to write than you thought and hopefully you might actually get some words down and not feel quite so overwhelmed with how busy your schedule looks. All right, thank you very much. Bye, Rhi!
R.S. Williams 28:07
Sarina Langer 28:08
If you enjoyed today’s episode, maybe learn something along the way, hit the subscribe button. You can also connect with me on Twitter @sarina_langer, on Instagram and Facebook @sarinalangerwriter, and of course on my website at sarinalanger.com. Until next time! Bye!
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