Writing For Money

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Want to Make More Money Writing?

Stop Wasting Time.


BY ROBERT W. BLY | I’m looking at my watch. It’s 8:38 on a Friday morning. By my calculations, I have only 204,400 waking hours of life left. And I intend to make the most of the time still available to me. How about you?


Today the demands on your time are tremendous. Everyone has too much to do. And not enough time to do it. “You may delay,” said Benjamin Franklin, “but time will not.”


We live in the Nanosecond Nineties — the Age of Now. Customers are more demanding than ever. They want everything yesterday. Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts comments, “We move faster than ever, but never quite fast enough.” Poet Stephen Dobyns laments:


Each thing I do I rush through so I can do

something else. In such a way do the days pass —

a blend of stock car racing and the never

ending building of a gothic cathedral.


Downsizing has left organizations leaner and meaner. Thousands of workers have been fired, and those who remain must take up the slack and are working harder than ever. According to a Harris poll, the average work week increased from 41 to 50 hours between 1973 and 1993.


Time is precious. Yet many writers I meet seem not to place much value on their time.


Time is a non-renewable resource that’s consumed at a constant and relentless rate. Once an hour is gone, you can never get it back.


Yet you can solve many of your time-related problems — not enough time, too much to do, deadlines too short, bosses too demanding — simply by using your time more efficiently and refusing to waste it. Writer Dan Kennedy once explained why he was so hard to reach on the phone: “My staff jealously guards my time.” Dan’s staff may be overzealous, but they have the right idea.


Okay. Here’s my advice on how not to waste your time:

1. Don’t do everything yourself. Hire assistants or acquire equipment to eliminate repetitive and routine tasks. Going to the corner stationery store to make photocopies is a waste of your time. Buy a small photocopier and keep it near our desk or hire an assistant to make copies for you, so you never have to do out and do it yourself again. I haven’t been to the post office in 7 years, because that’s a task better done by my $10-an-hour assistant than by me, the $100+ an hour writer.

Despise inefficiency. I spent the extra money on a plain paper fax, because photocopying the curly thermal paper from the old fax machine was an utter waste of time and energy.

2. Don’t shy away from Internet. Learn your way around the World Wide Web. It’s the most fantastic research tool ever available to writers. Information that used to require hours of research at the library to uncover can now be accessed online in a fraction of the time. Why get into your car and drive to read an article when you can bring it up on your computer screen in seconds?

I urge every writer to become Web-literate and learn how to search Web sites for information on the topics they write about. Not only will it save time, but the content (and therefore the quality) of your work will be improved too.

3. Don’t become addicted to Internet chat. The Internet has great potential for saving time, but also for wasting time — especially online forums and chat rooms. Limit your Web surfing and e-mailing to research and communication related to your business. Otherwise, aimless online chatting can eat away most of your morning or afternoon before you know it. Use the Internet as a tool; avoid Internet addiction.

4. Don’t get up. You’re most productive when you stay in your chair. Arrange your office so that everything is within easy reach. Don’t, for example, work in the basement but keep office supplies in the attic. Going up and down the steps is wasted motion and energy.

5. Don’t go out — or at least, be selective about where, when, and how often you go out. You can get so caught up in networking, lunches, and writers’ groups that you spend the whole week shmoozing, and consequently get little or no productive work done. Novelist Chaim Potok once began a talk by saying, “I feel guilty standing here talking about writing, because I should be home doing it.” Stop talking about writing and instead, write.

6. Don’t undervalue your time. Assign a dollar value to it. If you work 40 hours a week and earn $1,000 a week, each hour is worth $25. Measure other activities you can do during writing time against that $25, and then make a decision whether these activities are worth pursuing.


A friend of ours, for example, will drive a 40-minute round trip to a distant store to redeem $5 in coupons the local store won’t honor. That works out to a savings of $7.50 per hour of labor. My hourly billing rate is many times that, so for me it makes more sense to pay the extra $5 at a local store, save myself the long drive, and spend the 40 minutes working at my hourly rate instead.


“Time is the most precious currency of life, and how we spend it reflects what we truly value,” writes Richard J. Leider in his book The Power of Purpose. “Once we have spent it, it is gone forever. It cannot be re-earned.”


Samuel Butler called time “the only true purgatory” and Emerson said time is “the surest poison.” But I disagree. How you use your time is up to you. Writers, who sell nothing but time, must use it wisely. The best time to start doing so? Right now.


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BOB BLY is the author of 40 books including the just-published Secrets of a Freelance Writer: Revised Second Edition (Henry Hold & Co.). For a free catalog of Bob’s books, tapes, and reports for writers, contact: Bob Bly, 22 E. Quackenbush Avenue, Dumont, NJ 07628, phone 201-385-1220, fax 201-385-1138, email: Rwbly@aol.com