"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

6 Ways to Use Down Time to Elevate Your Writing Career!

Though there are no scientific studies to support my theory, or quantitative statistics from which to draw, I’d bet that if many of us could recover the collective time we’ve spent waiting in a “hold” pattern for something or someone before we could move to the next stage, we could add years on to our lives.

Whether it’s the time we spend on hold waiting for a customer service rep to help us with a problem over the phone, the time in between meeting a guy who takes our phone number and promises to call, the lapse between our “appointment” time and when we actually “see” the doctor, or the seemingly eternal wait from when we submit a creative piece and hear the status from an editor. It can play out like dog years.

There’s no doubt about it: down time can get you down! For some it’s seen as unproductive and unsettling.

But, when it comes to a creative career, you can’t afford to let “the wait” wreak havoc with your productivity, play mind games with you, or cause you to question your ability and shake your confidence.

Why? Because time is money. And how you spend it will determine how profitable you will ultimately become.

I admit, that in the infancy of my career, I didn’t always know this. I’d use down-time for pity parties, second guessing my goals, and being detoured on the road to success.

And though there is a grain of truth to the expression, “Good things come to those who wait”, it’s important to know how to wait productively for optimal results.

Here are a few fruitful lessons I‘ve learned along the way:

1. Set long term and short term goals.
This way, you’re always working towards something and are able to recognize that some projects may not pan out right away. The proper mindset will keep you motivated to go the distance.

2. Refuse to be beat.
Use your waiting experience to pen a creative poem, column, or personal essay. And get paid by default. What did you learn about yourself? How would you improve or streamline the process? Discuss whether or not you believe that “patience is a virtue.” Don’t forget to include relevant anecdotes and “ah-ha” moments.

3. Quit checking your Emails a hundred times a day.
Use that time to do research, read a good book to inspire you, or to declutter your work space.

4. Follow-up.
That’s right; put the ball in your court. Sometimes you can be waiting for an answer on a submission that was never received! I’ve actually had it happen a few times where I was waiting for weeks to hear from editors, who due to “cyberspace mishaps”, or crowded “spam folders,” I discovered the work was never viewed or received. Always be sure to be pleasant, professional, and “non-stalkish” in your follow-up interaction. Be prepared to resend.

5. Work on your blog.
Time spent on improving your blog, or connecting with your blog “community”, or honing your craft is never wasted. Not to mention, it can be relaxing and rewarding.

6. Be strategic.
To get more out of your efforts, consider doing simultaneous submissions. By doing so, you increase your publication odds, and decrease the time spent waiting to get the green light to move forward and to get paid.

In the famous words of Elvis Prseley, “Only fools rush in.” Give your creative efforts and your career the needed time it takes to grow and flourish. For each artist the timeframe differs.

As long as you are continuously making progress, and making sound decisions, rest assured that you’re on the “write” track and the money will follow.

How do you deal with down time? Does it get you down?



  1. These are excellent tips! I had to laugh at number 3 - for as long as I have been writing, it is tempting to take a peek at the inbox...Sometimes it's best to shut online windows down. :)

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Jennifer Brown BanksAugust 26, 2011 at 3:56 AM


    I struggle with "stalking" my inbox too. :-)
    You have a great one as well.

  3. Oh, why did I install that thing that goes beep when I get email--whether or not I'm online? Then I have to run and check it to find it's only a message board update. :-| Great tips, Jennifer. Thanks.

  4. Carol,

    If we could only push the "rewind button" on many aspects of our lives, right?! lol

    I appreciate your time and input.

  5. These are great tips for the newbie as well as the seasoned writer. Make every minute count: if you only have five minutes, write a topic sentence. If you have fifteen minutes, make it a pargraph. If you have half an hour, edit your paragraph. If you have a half a day, ressurect an olkd piece and imagine all that you can get finished.

  6. Jennifer Brown BanksAugust 28, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    How true, Linda! Thanks for adding to the mix here.

  7. Your bullet points are always worth saving. Look at me! My waiting-room experience at work!

  8. Jennifer Brown BanksSeptember 1, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    Aww, and you are always worth hearing from. ;-) Thanks, Rebecca! Have a great holiday.

  9. Thanks for your post,
    Frequently - when I watch something on tv and there is a commercial break - I will have enough time to read a few blogposts or write a comment, that way

    'Using my down time
    in a productive way'.

    Some time ago on one of my other blogs I actually wrote a special post about using downtime when waiting on an Airport.
    You can find it at:


    Feel free to complement this post with your own ideas, if you like.

    All the Best,
    To your Happy - Writing - Inspiration,

  10. Jennifer Brown BanksSeptember 1, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    Hey there, HP!

    I love the commercial break idea. I'll be checking that post out. Thanks for your time and ideas.

  11. I've stopped checking e-mails so much, but my problem is clicking. I love to click links that are shared in stories I am reading. And, I will follow-up on my submissions this week. Thanks for this.

  12. Jennifer Brown BanksSeptember 6, 2011 at 5:56 AM


    The E-mails things is a toughie--I'm guilty as well! :-)