I’m just like you– a busy person with existing time commitments who squeezes in writing where I can. I have a busy day job, which demands 40 to 60 hours a week. I have a husband and a cat, both of which require love and attention (and I wouldn’t change that for the world). I speak with my mother daily, and have friendships I maintain through texting and hanging out. And before injuring my back over the Christmas break, I did yoga twice a week and walked the treadmill three times a week. (Once I’m all healed up I’m going to get back into it–no really! *Fakes a limp*)
A year ago, I decided to start taking writing seriously. And ever since then, I’ve consistently written at least 7,000 words a week, and even more on those weekends when my husband was entertained by video games and my cat gorged on tuna and went into a food coma.
Whether it was flash fiction to learn how to condense a story, new chapters to develop a work-in-progress manuscript, blog posts to find my voice and build my platform, revisions to push toward publishable works– I have been able to keep writing and continually improve my craft. Apparently, I’ve learned the “secret” everyone wants to know for how to find time to write.
Okay. You ready for the secret? Here it is–in three tricks!
Trick 1: Stop trying so hard
There’s a fine line between taking your writing seriously and treating your writing like a job. If it’s really about making money (which is the core purpose of a job) then you’re in the wrong profession.
I’ll give a real life example here. Someone I knew –Seriously, this isn’t a story about me in the third person– wanted to write a book. I’ve seen their work and they were definitely creative and talented enough to write a great book. But what I didn’t get is that they saved up all their money and then quit their day job to spend a year writing their book. Everyone was pretty shocked, and I admired the dedication. I followed them on social media to see how it went.
They started out strong, sharing passages and things they were learning, but then quickly came to realize how difficult it is to write a publishable book. Their dedication dwindled and they finally gave up commercial writing altogether. I couldn’t believe it. How could someone get so far, put in so much investment, and then just give up? But then again, commercial writing is not for everyone. And if you’re going to treat it like a job, you’re going to lose your passion for it (at least that is the lesson I learned from this instance) or realize you didn’t have a passion for it in the first place (which was probably more likely).
I don’t want that to ever happen to me. I love writing, and if it becomes a job, then it’s time to take a break.
That said, I want to point out the distinction here between treating writing like a job, and taking your writing seriously. When it becomes about money, fame, or even recognition, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons. But if you enjoy writing, inspiring others, and want to take it seriously, then I recommend starting with books like “How to Make a Living as a Writer” and “You are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One).” These cover essential principles for understanding how this field works. Informing yourself is taking yourself seriously as a writer, and I commend that. However, don’t overwhelm yourself or turn it into work. Look at it as a creative hobby that requires maintenance.
Trick 2: Stop making excuses
Don’t make excuses to avoid writing. Don’t say “this is too hard” or “I’ll never be as good as other authors” or “I just don’t have the talent.” While there is creativity required, the majority of writing skills can most definitely be taught. To support this comment, I suggest reading Senior Literary Agent Paula Munier’s recent book, Writing With Quiet Hands, to understand what skills can be learned, and exercises you can do to improve them. If you feel like you’re making excuses based on a lack of understanding of the craft, this book will help you to be inspired and give you steps to improve your writing. (How do I know? Because I went through it and this book gave me the kick in the pants I needed! Thank you, Paula!)
Here are my suggestions for excuses you may be saying to yourself for those unavoidable time commitments:
Family – Wake up an hour earlier while your family is still sleeping and get in some quiet writing time. Only you know your family’s schedule best, and if you can pinpoint a time when you know your family is otherwise occupied, this is an opportunity for you to spend some time on your writing. Even if it’s 15 minutes, that’s enough to keep your writing consistent.
Work – Instead of going out to eat during your work lunch, spend your time reading a book or writing. I know it’s considered anti-social, but if these people are your true friends, they’ll understand you only want to spend lunch with them once or twice a week, and the rest is reserved for your writing. If they don’t understand, then I don’t know why you’re investing time into those relationships anyway. And if it’s for climbing the corporate ladder by making connections, you really don’t need to go so heavy on the work lunches. Just make a point to stop by their desk, ask questions about their work and lives, and make valid compliments. It’ll go a long way, and help you build work relationships without shelling out cash for expensive lunches.
Going to the gym – I cringe when writers sacrifice their health to find time for their writing. This is a mistake and they’ll pay for it later. Don’t think that just because you’re in motion that you can’t work on your craft. How about an audiobook? Part of writing is also reading. While exercising on the treadmill you can listen to an audiobook, or if you’re so talented you can read while walking (I’ve seen people do it but I’ll stick to my audiobooks). Or if you’re in a quiet environment, you can even make voice recordings to plan out world-lore, character histories, and other necessary pondering that is required for a seamless and believable story. I’ve also done voice recordings when on a long commute, so even if I’m driving I’m still able to work on my manuscript.
Trick 3: Stop wasting time with social media and TV
I feel silly to have to make this such a big “secret” tip, but I really think it is. I suggest you tally up your time and see how much of it is spent on social media or TV– which essentially are completely unproductive and brain-sucking activities.
I do find that 5 minutes on social media to solicit followers and interact with existing followers is necessary for a platform, but no more than that is required. As for TV, other than news or an educational program, there’s no value being added to your life other than a medium to relax, which you can get by reading too. The only other possible value TV adds is to be able to spark up conversations with other people. But if you’re a writer, then your friends are likely writerly people and you’ll get a lot farther having read books they’d be familiar with.
All that said, don’t run yourself into the ground. Find a balance with every point in your life– Family/Religion, Work, Exercise, Relaxation(don’t forget to rest your brain!)– Make writing another priority you won’t sacrifice. Most of all, find satisfaction in your hard work. What do you love about writing? Why do you want to publish your work? Find the real reasons and make those your goals. Be specific. How can you hit the bullseye if you don’t even know where it is?
That’s it folks, the big secrets to finding time to write are out. Only you can decide how to spend your time, and as long as you’re spending it wisely and finding a balance between your writing and other time commitments, that’s all you can ask from yourself.