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?
- 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 . . .
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!