Do you keep the rule of three sacred?

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I could be talking about Aristotle’s Three Unities of Tragedy, or the rule of three in comedy (although if you can go to 17, it’s even better), or even the pattern of writing where the flow works best when events come in threes.

Those are great. This rule of three will save your brain from overload.

Last week I talked about Overdoing it and now it’s time to turn the boat around. Let’s get into the solutions for overdoing it.  What can you do to keep your writing life fulfilled but sane?


The Rule of Three

When you’re considering a new job or a new project,  answer the following three questions:

  1. Will it make you happy?
  2. Will it provide a unique challenge?
  3. Will it make you money?

In an ideal world, we should answer YES! to all three questions. We’re happy, we’re challenged, and we’re paying the bills. But let’s face it, we’re artists. I’ll bet you can name dozens and dozens of projects that made you happy and offered a unique challenge. It becomes harder to name those projects made money and also brought happiness or challenge.

New Project = Time

But these are the things you need to think about. New projects take up your time.  Your valuable time.

You want to be wary about are the projects where you’re answering NO! to all three questions. Those are the red flags. There’s many reasons we take on new projects. Maybe you’re helping out a friend or a relative. Maybe someone wants you to do just one more thing. Maybe you’re trying out a project just one more time to make it work. If you’re miserable, if you’re not challenged, and if you’re not being financially compensated, then why are you doing it?

Worse are those projects where not only are you not being financially compensated, you’re expected to pay in. There are many playwriting contests and theatre groups that expect playwrights to pay if they want play. We’re supposed to be grateful for the experience. The experience of performance is not enough. It’s not worth your time.

Money, money, money…

You want to be wary too of the money only projects. I’m just doing it for the money, I know I’m doing it for the money, it’s ok. It can become a mantra when you’re working long days on something that doesn’t serve your soul.

I applaud anyone who can just do it for the money.

Seriously, I wish I could do it and maintain my happiness. But I can’t. I’ve done it twice. Both times were total misery. Damaging my health misery. Sucking up months of my time. It wasn’t worth it.

Is happiness enough?

Of course that brings us back to being happy and challenged but maybe not being paid. You have to consider that as well. Your time is valuable. Only you can answer the question – Is happiness and creative challenge enough? 

It all depends on how you define happiness. In my early years when I wasn’t making money as a writer I would temp. I would work full time as a secretary for six weeks and then write for two. That made me very happy – the bills were paid and I was working to make writing time.

Recently I’ve started adjudicating festivals. Some for free because I’m a beginner. The act makes me happy because I’m developing a skill.

Here’s the bottom line.

Never flippantly take on something new without thinking it through. Every project sounds interesting on the surface.  But what are you getting out of the experience? What is your time worth?

  1. Will it make you happy?
  2. Will it provide a unique challenge?
  3. Will it make you money?



When is the best time to write?


It’s a question that plagues many beginning writers. “When should I write?” Unfortunately there is no one way to answer, just as there is no one way to write. But you can examine your process so that your time with the page is most effective.

Assess your Day

To move writing forward, you need time to write. What if you feel you have no time? Write out every activity you have to do in a day. Do you have to get your family ready for school?Do you have a full class schedule yourself? What are your daily tasks? How long is your daily commute? How long do you sleep? How long do you eat? Don’t forget your time wasters either ­ how long do you spend on Facebook, TMZ, the Drudge Report? How long do you watch TV at night? Your job is to find free time. What activity can you replace with writing?

Finding free time often means a sacrifice ­ No TV and no Facebook. How does that make you feel? Excited or irritated?  If it’s a chore to find writing time or it makes you resentful, perhaps you don’t want to write.

Change = Time

There is time to write in every day. It isn’t pretty but it is doable. You have to change the status quo. Get up half an hour earlier. Go to bed half an hour later. Write during your lunch hour. Change your method of transportation – can you take the bus to work instead of drive? Change your tools – if you can’t find time to sit down and write, get a recording ap for your phone and talk into it every spare second. You can easily find someone to transcribe your work on sites like

It takes practice to write on the fly. Don’t give up after a couple of sessions, try it for at least a month. It’s not as idyllic as spending a leisurely afternoon with pen and paper, but it gets words on the page.

Schedule It

Your day is done and you haven’t written a word. That needs to be addressed. If writing in your spare moments doesn’t work, schedule it. Put writing time on your calendar. Think of writing like a doctor’s appointment or yoga class or Jimmy’s hockey practice. You wouldn’t bail on these activities because they’re important. Make writing just as important.

You may need to train your family to value writing time as much as going to the doctor. Again, don’t give up after one session. It takes time to set a pattern.

What if I get writer’s block during my scheduled time? Once you set up your writing time, keep that appointment. If your brain doesn’t want to write, use the time to improve your skills; warm ups, read something that inspires you, write in a journal.

Do Your Thing

Never choose a time to write because another writer crows about their productivity at X o’clock.

“I write from nine to five! I write at one in the morning!” 

First of all, you don’t know if they’re telling the truth, maybe they’re just showing off. Secondly, writing is an individual task. The best time to write will always depend on the individual writer. If everyone talks about how great it is to get up earlier to write and you’re not an early riser, don’t do it.  Find another time in your day. There is no formula to follow to writing success.

Do whatever it takes to finish your work.

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The Best Time to Write