Category Archives: Writing

10 Easy Ways to Find Time to Write

It’s easy to complain about a lack of time to write. I should know. I’ve done it enough over the years.

But the truth is, you and I are no more busy than the next guy. Don’t get me wrong. I believe you when you say you have a lot to do. I just happen to know all those writers we watch generate story after story and book after book have the same 24 hours in a day as we do. And I don’t imagine they have a staff of housekeepers, nannies, chauffeurs, and personal assistants to help them carve out writing time.

So how can you find time to write?

  1. Get up half hour earlier. Yeah, I know. This isn’t anyone’s favorite thing to do. But that quiet time before anyone stirs in your house, before your phone starts to ring, and before you get distracted by email can be invaluable. If writing is important to you, well . . .
  2. Limit social networking. Speaking of email, limit yourself to specific times of day when you’ll check your inbox, log on to facebook, or dive into the twitter stream. Nothing wrong with any of those things, but if you’ve checked your email 10 times and haven’t yet finished that scene you’re working on, your schedule’s out of whack.
  3. Fall back on the old school pen and paper. Carry a notebook with you, so you can write wherever you are when inspiration strikes or you find a free moment. (Not that you should wait on inspiration, but it does happen, and it helps if you can get it down on the page while it’s fresh.)
  4. Record your favorite tv shows. Bless the inventor of the dvr. You can record a one-hour show, and skipping commercials, zip through it in about 40 minutes. Use the extra time for writing. 
  5. Skip the shows you don’t really care about. Seriously. Turn off the tv. It’s the biggest potential time suck in your life. Do you really need to watch episode after episode to see who wins American Idol this year? (Is that show still on the air?) Look critically at how the box is taking up your time. Remember: the writers, producers, and actors or contestants on those shows are all getting their work done and out to the world. Are you?
  6. Make use of waiting time. Whether you’re stuck in the carpool line waiting for the kids, sitting through yet another soccer practice, or waiting for the dentist to tell you how perfect your teeth are, you’ve got a block of time to get some work done. Bring along your laptop, or your notebook and a hard copy of your current project.
  7. Schedule your writing sessions. Don’t just put writing on your to-do list, block out time on your daily calendar. Whether it’s 20 minutes or 2 hours, do it consistently.Respect your work enough to show up for the appointments like you would any other. Don’t have time free in your day for regular writing sessions? How about your lunch hour? The hour after the kids go to bed? 30 minutes of the hour you’d otherwise spend complaining about your insensitive boss?
  8. Make a writing date. Find a writing partner you can regularly meet with for writing sessions. The point of these dates is to generate new work. You can always read and critique for each other later, but get the words on the page first. Grab a hot beverage, set a timer, and don’t talk until the buzzer rings.
  9. Set a daily quota AND reward. Daily word counts are great, but they’re even better if they come with a reward. Once you hit your word count, you get to watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica on Netflix, spend 30 minutes surfing Ted videos, or whatever it is you might do instead of writing. Do the work first, and you can enjoy your reward with a clean conscience.
  10. Turn off the phone. This is a hard one for me. I can miss just about any call, but I try to be available for my kids. The trick here is to let folks know you’ll be working. Give the kids someone else they can reach in the event of an emergency. Ignore everyone else. You  can call them back once you’ve written your protagonist out of whatever sticky situation she finds herself in.
  11. Exercise. This one’s a bonus. The discipline of daily exercise will carry over to other areas of your life, including writing. Regular physical activity will improve your focus, and you’ll be amazed at how your story problems solve themselves while you’re walking, jogging, or lifting weights. Besides, sitting at a desk all day isn’t exactly good for getting back into your skinny jeans.

All of these ideas have worked for me at different points in my writing career, and they still do. The bottom line is that we make time for the things we prioritize. Give yourself permission to make your writing more important than most other things for a block of time every day.

How do you make time to write?

Go write something!

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Writing



Why I’m Not Writing ANYTHING New This Week

At the start of the year, like so many writers, I set some specific writing goals.

I’ve consistently exceeded my daily word count, sometimes by a multiple of ten. This doesn’t include rewrites or revisions. I set specific expectations for generating new material, because I can happily get lost for hours in finding one perfect metaphor, deciding between a comma and conjunction or two separate sentences, or simply paring down dialogue. That’s all in good fun, and I continue to find great pleasure in those things, but they make for a very slow writing process.

My foray into writing genre fiction has made it somewhat easier to generate thousands of words a day, but I also do the same with literary fiction, with the knowledge that I’ll likely do a lot of cutting in the long run.

I’m proud of all the works I’ve produced (though more proud of some than others). But it’s time to do something with it all. This week is about getting the genre fiction revised and published. Next week, I’ll make time to rework the literary stories for an hour or so each day, but I’ll also get back to generating new material and hitting my word count quotas.

No matter how many words we write, our work is in some way incomplete until it’s released to the world and found by readers.

Go write something!

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Fiction, Writing


Tags: , ,

Writing My Way Out From Under

The word for this week is overwhelm.

I’m looking for a new house, helping the older daughter with med school apps, completing high school apps for the younger, working on financial aid applications for both, and just received manuscript notes back from the editor at Penguin. Deadlines loom.

Yesterday, I started to crack. I have a couple of genre projects I want to get published, and I began to feel like they’d never get done. I obsessed over all the things that could go wrong with my many obligations. Have I procrastinated too long? Will my fail my daughters? Will my writing partner make time to work on the manuscript before the last minute? How long will it take to get the next advance check? What if the girls don’t get into any of their desired schools? What if there’s not enough financial aid available to close the tuition gap?

I worked all day, but not efficiently. Even while I marched on the incline machine at the gym, my energy was manic, my mind roaming from one task to another. Today started out the same way, but one simple change made the difference.

I gave myself permission to delve into my own work. Sure, I met my writing quota yesterday, but it was done without respect for the work as a priority. I was simply getting it done, because I’d committed to doing it. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t even appreciate it.

I worked on all the family and career obligations. They’re all important. But I also allowed myself ninety minutes to write my fiction. No tabbing over to websites, no stopping to make a quick phone call to an admissions office, no whining about how underwater I felt.

Ninety minutes isn’t a lot of time, but it saved me. Focusing on something I can control, seeing visible progress on an important project, diving into my fictional world, and spending time with the characters of my creation recharged me in a way that few things can.

I’ll have to remember that over the next few weeks.

Go write something!


Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Writing


Tags: , ,

Note to Self: Trust Your Writer’s Instinct

When I first started as a creative writer, I took a lot of classes and workshops. I was so close to my own writing, so invested in my lofty goals, I often failed to see my own shortcomings. Even when I did, I was quite good at rationalizing them away, hoping no one else would notice. I needed an instructor or classmate to point out cliches, poor word choices, logic gaps, unintentional humor or total lack of humor, flat characters, lack of texture, and all the other things that can make your writing a bore.

Receiving criticism and using it to make my work better helped me learn to find those problems for myself. Critiquing my classmates’ writing allowed me to develop an even sharper eye for all those details, and eventually I got to the point that I didn’t really need anyone to show me where my work was falling short. In almost every case, the things they circled and outlined and questioned on my drafts were things I already knew weren’t right. I may not have known just how to fix them, but I was aware that they needed to be fixed.

I still get feedback from my writing friends and from some great readers I’m fortunate to have in my life, but I don’t depend on it. Instead, I’ve learned to be my own best critic. Rarely does my writer’s instinct let me down.

Go write something!


Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Fiction, Writing


One Writer’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2012

I understand the resistance many people have when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions. By Valentine’s Day the gym is no longer crowded, daily writing word counts have dropped from 2000 to a scant 200, and that small business launch idea has somehow dried up and died. All those dreams of making a new year different from the last tend to lose momentum when the reality of doing the work sets in.

But I’m a goal setter, and the beginning of the year is one of my favorite time to set goals, make plans, and take action. Call them resolutions, goals, intentions, or whatever you’d like. I resolve to make these things happen. Feel free to check in with me to hold me accountable.

1. Write every day. I’m a better writer when I get something on the page everyday, and I’m more likely to meet my larger writing goals. Taking off an unplanned day or two often leads to taking off an unplanned week or two, making it incredibly difficult to get back into whatever story I’m writing.

ACTION: Write a minimum of 1000 words of new material/day. It’s a small, achievable amount, and I’m always free to write more.

2. Take a break between finished projects. Writing, editing, and revising for hours a day can lead to a bit of burn out, if I’m not careful.

ACTION: Specify the breaks on my calendar, including 1 to 2 days off after finishing a longer work.

3. Write to completion. I have more than enough half finished short stories and novels on my hard drive. In 2012, the rule is, “You start it, you finish it.” A novel may be cut to a novella, a short story may become flash fiction, but each piece will have a beginning, middle and end. The ability to complete a project in a reasonable time-frame is an invaluable skill.

ACTION: Finish first drafts of short stories within one week, novellas within one month, and novels within 6 months.

4. Publish every month. I have several works that are nearly ready to publish, so this won’t be difficult. My objective is to exceed this goal, but this is the minimum I can achieve and claim success.

ACTION: Meet with my publishing partner to create a publication schedule for January and February.

5. Make use of creativity tools. Deadlines can, on occasion, find me hammering away at a story, slogging my way through in a way that’s not so much fun. I’ve gotten out of the habit of using silence, freewriting, poetry readings, and the like to make the creative process flow more smoothly. All of these tools have worked for me in the past, and I need to take advantage of them.

ACTION: Schedule at least one creative exercise per week. Put it on the calendar.

6. Find a local writing/art community. I’m not much for driving to the city, but I’m not likely  to find a thriving art community out here in my suburb.

ACTION: Attend AT LEAST one literary or art event per quarter. (Hey. It’s a start.)

7. Take advantage of BOTH traditional and indie publishing opportunities. The book I’m co-writing will be published by Penguin in fall of 2012, and I’ll look to take on more of those kinds of projects. At the same time, I’ll indie publish most of my short stories. The journal submission process is just too lengthy for me at this  point in my career.

ACTION: Meet all Penguin deadlines AND indie publishing deadlines.

I can take action on at least four of these resolutions today, and I will. Fortunately, most of these goals support each other. I’m looking forward to my most productive writing year yet. What work will you do?

Go write something!

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 2, 2012 in Writing


Tags: , , ,

4 Reasons I Was Writing Fiction on Christmas Day

Yes, my family celebrates Christmas, and I spent the weekend with family and friends, doing the things most people do to recognize the holiday. I enjoyed the food, and the Christmas movies, and the exchange of gifts, but  by late afternoon on Christmas Day, everyone was ready to settle down and have a little quiet time. That left me with a few hours of free time, and I used an hour of it to work on a short story.

Why would I want to spend a holiday writing fiction?

  1. I love writing. I had some free time, so why shouldn’t I spend it doing what I most enjoy? I hung out with my family and read from some of the books they gave me as gifts. Writing was just one more enjoyable activity.
  2. Writing every day makes it easier to slide into the fictional worlds I’m creating. The more time I spend away from my characters, the more time and effort I require to get back into their stories. By writing every day, even if the sessions are brief, I find it easier to get back to work each time I sit in front of my laptop. As an added bonus, I also find that I’m thinking about and developing the stories, even when I’m away from my desk.
  3. Progress inspires me. Seeing my stories nearer to completion makes me want to come back for more each day.
  4. I’ve set goals and deadlines for the work I want to publish in 2012. I could wait for New Year’s Day to resolve to make resolutions and plan how I’ll get the work done, but I’m no longer wasting time. No one is going to impose deadlines, work hours, or quality checks on me, so I’m imposing them on myself, and there’s no sense in waiting for an artificial trigger to begin.
Go write something!

Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Fiction, Writing


Tags: , , , ,

That Same Old Advice: Write Every Day

Recently writer-director Spike Lee met with a group of students and professors involved in launching a new Cinema and Television program at Morehouse College. I didn’t attend, but my inside man sent text updates throughout the event. By his account, Mr. Lee was a gracious and direct instructor, taking the time to give each student specific advice on how to pursue his writing goals.

At one point, I received a text that read: Spike said “Write every day.”

My response, was something along the lines of: Duh! (Okay. I actually typed the even less elegant response, No sh*t. I was having a margarita with friends at the time. Don’t judge me.)

In every writing class and workshop, at conferences and readings–I’ve heard the advice “write every day” more times than I care to count. Perhaps there’s a reason almost every writer who’s achieved any amount of success in the field repeats the same old line. Perhaps that reason is that most of us don’t heed the advice the first thousand times we hear it.

When I started toying with the idea of making writing my profession, I’d write every day for a while and then miss a few days or weeks. I had small children I was homeschooling, a husband who expected to be taken care of, books I wanted to read, tv shows to watch, and a phone that rang all evening.  I was too busy to write every day, except in short spurts.

Once I joined a serious writing workshop, I found I could happily edit and rewrite each day. I lost myself in  every sensory detail, every interesting word choice, every comma and em dash. Writing new material happened a couple of days a week. I produced strong work, but I had trouble finishing anything longer than a short story.

It took me years to wake up and accept that consistency was the only way I’d truly master the craft and write all the stories I wanted to read. Daily writing as a practice not only builds skill, but also develops the habit of creating the new work necessary to get to THE END.

If you don’t want to write every day, maybe writing is just a hobby for you. Maybe you’d rather be a reader. Those things are okay. But if you choose to become a writer, then I fear you must join the rest of us typing or scribbling away each day. Use prompts, join a writing challenge, do exercises, team up with a friend for a writing session, start a blog, take a class. Whatever you need to do to make it happen, follow Mr. Lee’s advice, and write every day. It certainly worked for him.

Go write something!


Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Writing


Tags: , ,