How authors should spend “idle” time

The job of an author is inescapably lumpy. There are intensely challenging times and other moments — gaps — in which everything on the to-do list is lower priority.

If you find yourself with an hour block or more that’s free, don’t waste it. Invest that time in efforts that will pay off in the long term. You could do any of the following:

  • Buy and read other books in your space. Take notes.
  • Do something enjoyable but book-related, like watching a documentary or listening to a podcast about a topic tangentially related to your book.
  • Write a blog post about your impressions of news events in your space. Share on social media.
  • Create a list of your ten most valuable contacts: mentors, former colleagues, or fellow authors. Contact a few and set up time to connect and share ideas.
  • Create or revise a list of your ten best ideas for the next book.
  • If you already have the list, start researching the one or two you find most promising.
  • Follow up on leads for publicity, consulting work, or speeches that went cold. “It looks like our last conversation was last month — do you still have any interest in this?”
  • Reach out to podcasters in your space, including those you’ve already interviewed with. Come up with something new to talk about and propose it to them.
  • Take a walk. While you’re walking, ideas often come to you. Tap or dictate them into your phone for review later.
  • Practice something you want to get better at. Writing (even if it’s fiction). Martial arts. Cooking.
  • Force yourself to write up an idea you’ve been thinking about. What you write could be the central idea of what you’ll be writing next.

What do these activities have in common? They boost your reputation. They make you smarter. They fertilize the field that your next book will be planted in.

Here’s a radical idea

Book an hour every week in your schedule — or a half an hour every day — to spend on these activities.

Then you’ll be sure to invest for the long term, even when your days are busy.

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One Comment

  1. I read constantly, and I’m always writing something. I’m fortunate to be a professional writer, so my client work is my practice for my personal work. Luckily, I write humor (for fun), so even watching TV comedies count as “improvement.”