Finding time to write is hard. Why? Because life likes to throw about ten million other things our way to keep us from devoting time to a less important task. How can you possibly take an hour to work on your story when you have to show up at your day job, pay bills, cook meals, keep your house from becoming a hazardous waste zone, and heaven forbid we miss the latest episode of Criminal Minds.
“When it comes to managing writing time, Nora Roberts’ quote is my favorite: “I had the blood and fire rule when my boys were young. You know, unless it’s blood or fire, don’t bother me.”She’s right. Whether it lasts ten minutes, a couple of hours, or an entire day, my writing time is sacrosanct. I eliminate all distractions (social media, TV) and focus on my story. I typically write five days a week with a goal of 2,000 words a day. It’s a matter of applying my butt to the chair and writing. It’s that easy…and that hard.” – Katie Oliver, Carina UK author
Generally speaking, making time to write has a lot to do with how you view writing. If it’s not important to you then you won’t make it a priority over Twitter scrolling or Netflix binging. It will become a less important task. If your story and writing are important to you, making them a priority will come much more naturally.
“I’ve learned that I can make the most of my writing time when I plan in advance, so when I spent nights writing, I’d spend the rest of the day plotting: While commuting to and from work, while walking around a local park at lunch, or while sitting through boring meetings. I’ve also found that setting daily or weekly word count goals keeps me focused. I wrote my first book for Harlequin, The Seven-Day Target, in five weeks by setting a daily goal of 2k words. That’s roughly two hours of writing every night, and it was worth giving up television on weeknights to become a novelist.” – Natalie Charles, PocketBooks author
So the fact that you’re reading this means you want to make time for writing in your life, and the best way to do that is to schedule it. Whether you keep meticulous notes in a daily planner or are of the I’ll remember that camp, scheduling time to write is the most surefire way to actually make time to write.
First thing you need to do is figure out what is draining your schedule. One tip I found was to write down everything you do and how much time it takes for a few days. By being honest with yourself and writing down exactly how long you spent on Pinterest, you can accurately see what you can trim up and how you can reorganize your time to make space for your story. This may involve cutting one or two binge-watching sessions or hitting snooze one less time in the morning, but between those and your writing time, writing definitely takes priority.
“For me, I’ve had a 500 word writing goal for several years now and it’s really helped me succeed because I know I can accomplish it. I also know that I write best in the afternoon so I spend the morning running errands, cleaning, and doing whatever else I feel like I need to do so that when I sit down, I can focus on writing. I also give myself scheduled days off to recharge. Unless I’m on deadline. Then I divide the pages out by how many days I have to complete the task and get to work!” –Amber Mitchell, Entangled Teen author
So you’ve chiseled out 30 minutes a day to spend on writing. When should you actually sit down to write? That’s up to you. Use a few days and see what time you feel you’re at your most creative. If you can barely form sentences early in the morning, you might want to find another time to schedule the writing part of your day. Try writing over your lunch hour, right when you get home from work or later before bed. You should try to always schedule your writing time at the time you’re at your most creative.
Once you’ve done all of the work to make time and figure out what time works best for you, you have to stick to your guns and protect your writing time. You wouldn’t cancel a doctor’s appointment last minute because your neighbor dropped by for coffee, so don’t say to yourself oh, that can wait. It’s okay to tell your neighbor that you’re busy and schedule another time to sit and chat.
“For me, it’s not so much about making time–I’m fortunate enough to be able to write full-time–as it is about forcing myself to unplug from the outside world for a six-hour stretch every day. No internet, no emails or texts or phone calls at all, which is exactly as hard as it sounds. But I am ruthless about both unplugging and protecting my writing time. Writing is my business, and in order for me to succeed, I have to produce words.” – Kimberly Belle, MIRA author
Some writers work their schedules so they only work four days a week at their day job and spend the fifth day writing, others have written multiple books during their morning commute. Here are a few more tips on creating writing time,
- Save the TV for the weekend – If you can record your show during the week, save it for a day when you have more time and can fit both your show and your writing time in your schedule.
- Set a Realistic Writing Goal – Whether you want to write 2,000 or 500 words a day, the important thing is that you set a writing goal that you can stick with and hit every single day. The main focus should be to make progress and establish a writing routine.
- Your Commute – I once met a writer who wrote four books on his daily commute to and from work. If you take public transportation, bring along your notebook. If you drive, check out any dictation apps you might like (check out our favorites here.) Your daily commute is time you have to spend anyway, so why not make it productive?
- Stick to your Writing Times– That scene is working wonderfully and you’re totally in your writing zone when you hit your word count or time limit. That’s when you stop. If you stop when the writing is good, you’ll always have something to start with tomorrow. It will also keep your mind on your story when you’re between writing times.
- Minimize Distractions – If you’re trying to keep your writing time but keep getting interrupted by family, pets, phone calls, or noisy neighbors, try creating a writing space where you can literally close the door on distractions. Make this space completely devoted to writing and not only will you be distraction free, you’ll find that your brain will recognize that it’s time to write when you’re in that space.
Between jobs, family, friends and life, everyone has other things trying to take over their writing time. The challenge is to take your spare minutes and turn them into time for you and your work in progress. Take a week or two to write down how you spend your time and find your spare minutes. Then find what works best for you and get to writing.