Just out of curiosity, who here has ever thought, “I just have too much time”? I mean, am I the only one? Between homeschooling my three kids, cleaning the house, buying groceries and preparing meals, driving kids around, exercising, going to church… I just have SO much extra time on my hands.
Okay, yes, I’m absolutely being sarcastic. Life can be overwhelming sometimes, can’t it? And I’m not even trying to work in a full-time job, like some of you are. We all get the same 24 hours in a day (if you’ve figured out how to get more, do tell!), and we all have more than enough commitments to fill them up.
How, then, does anyone find extra time to write? I’ve been working on this problem in my own life for the last decade, so today I’d like to share with you five helpful things I’ve learned along the way.
1. Decide you’re actually going to do it.
You don’t have to write. Unless you’re in school, or your job requires it, nobody is making you do it. But if you’re anything like me, maybe you’ve figured out that there are stories and words inside of you clamoring to get out. Maybe you’ve realized that a part of your soul won’t be satisfied until you get those words onto paper. Maybe you know that your love of creating can’t be ignored any longer.
Writing, whether it’s short stories or blog posts or a novel, takes motivation and commitment. It requires sacrificing other things you could be doing. And, unless you’re one of the lucky few, it will take years of invested time before you get paid. So take a good look at your motives. If the passion and the drive are there, you can do this. You can make it happen.
2. Evaluate your schedule.
Now, on to the nuts and bolts. Take a hard look at your schedule – maybe even jot it down or print out a copy – and identify any obvious places where you could squeeze in some time to write. Maybe on your lunch break at work, or while the baby takes a nap, or in the evening after dinner.
Even short chunks of time can be put to good use. I generally want 30 or more minutes of (mostly) uninterrupted time if I’m working on a draft on my laptop. If I know it will be less time, I’ll use a spiral notebook (or even scraps of paper, in a pinch) to jot down notes about characters, upcoming scenes, or just random ideas I don’t want to forget. I keep a small notepad or index cards in my purse, so even if it’s five minutes in the car while I’m waiting for the kids, I can still record my thoughts.
The important part is to do your best with what you have. Seasons of life change – right now, you might have to work around a schedule that’s less than ideal. I do my best thinking in the morning, but that’s also when I’m teaching my kids. So for this season, I end up doing most of my work during their afternoon reading time or in the evenings. And yes, that also means I can’t spend every night watching TV for two or three hours, but that’s where point #1 comes in – if you’ve got the drive to write, you’ll find it much more fulfilling than that cheesy Hallmark movie anyway.
3. Give yourself permission to do what you love.
What held me back from writing for a long time was what I like to call the “Cinderella’s stepmother complex.” You know, Cinderella wants to go to the ball, but her stepmother won’t let her go until her chores are done. Well, it took me years to figure this out, but I have the tendency to be my own stepmother, never letting myself do what I love until my chores are done.
I wanted to write a novel… but I had to finish my master’s thesis. Then, I wanted to write… but the baby didn’t take very long naps, and it was easier to clean or cook or sleep. Then, the kids were older… but they made bigger messes, and the mini-blinds were dreadfully dusty.
But you know what? The reality is, the chores will NEVER get done (see the 2nd law of thermodynamics). Which meant, I would NEVER be able to work hard enough to ever get to write. Once I realized this important truth, I just needed to give myself permission to write anyway. Cleaning is great – it’s in my schedule – but I don’t let it take over my writing time.
Yes, you can go to the ball, Cinderella, even though the chores aren’t done.
4. Establish a routine.
Routines, like habits, can be our best friends. Once you’ve decided on your best time slots for writing and given yourself permission, it’s time to make it a habit. Writing can be very hard mental work, so make it easier on yourself by setting yourself up for success.
Creating a simple routine can help get you in the mood to write. And once you’ve had a few positive experiences, following the same routine will encourage your Muse to cooperate each time you sit down. How can you go about this?
The key, of course, is in figuring out what works best for you. Where will you work? What tools will you use? What kind of lighting and sounds will be most helpful? Personally, I work best either at my kitchen table or on the sofa, hot cup of tea at hand, and using a laptop if I’m writing a draft. Otherwise, the notebook is my go-to tool. I prefer silence, although sometimes music will work. (Episodes of “My Little Pony” and “Voltron” in the background do not work.)
Once you train yourself to your routine, it’s much easier for your brain to recognize when it’s time to dive into creating, and you’ll become more productive.
5. Give yourself grace.
This final point might be the most important. I’ll repeat it again: writing is hard work. Some days the words will fly off your fingertips and you’ll be awed at how much you’ve accomplished. Other days, you’ll struggle through each sentence. You’ll feel like donating your work to a neighborhood bonfire. (Don’t – there’s no such thing as wasted writing.)
Remember why you’re doing this – because you love it. Because you’re driven to share your words with others. Because you just don’t feel all the way alive without writing. And then give yourself grace. Recognize that creating is hard work, and sometimes you just need a break. If you’ve made writing a habit, you won’t be able to stay away for too long.
And there you have it, my five tips for working writing time into your life. There’s no magic to it – just motivation and hard work. There are other obstacles you might face even once you have your time scheduled, and I’ll talk about some of these in my next blog post.
But until then, what’s stopping you? How can you make the most of your time to make sure you don’t neglect your dream to write? Feel free to share your ideas and comments below; you never know what will help someone else.
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