One of the biggest challenges for writers is finding the time to write.
How do you it?
In my own life, I’m a father & husband first, then a medical physicist in a busy cancer center where I have to balance clinical responsibilities, research and teaching. And only after that, I get to be a writer. One of the common questions I get is: Where do you find the time for writing?
Short answer: You have to make it.
Here are my top 10 tips on making time for writing…
- Make Writing a Regular Habit
Schedule it into your day. Even with a mind-blowingly hectic schedule, blocking off an hour, or even a half-hour to devote to your craft will accumulate over months. Play the long game. Figure out what’s reasonable given your schedule and defend your writing time. People around you will learn your schedule.
Further, when you do something on a regular basis, you tend to get better at it. Your brain learns that this is the time of day to be creative.
- Set SMART Writing Goals for Yourself
Goals are hugely important. When you don’t have a specific goal with a deadline, making any progress in your writing will often take a back seat to the other things in life that do, even the unimportant ones. Make sure your writing goals are:
- Permission to Play
Writing for me is constructive down-time. It’s how I relax and exercise my creative mind. Sometimes people see this as an indulgence… something you really shouldn’t be doing… there are more important things to do. And sure, there are very clearly more important things in life. But when you’re doing those “more important things” you want to bring your A game. That’s hard to do, when you can’t concentrate well. People need down time. It makes that “executive function” part of the brain that much more efficient when it’s needed.
Exercise. Get adequate sleep. Eat properly.
While at first, hitting the gym or going to bed early may seem at odds with building time into your schedule for writing, keep the long game in mind. When you do sit down at the keyboard, you want to be alert and have a healthy reserve of creative energy to unleash. This is next to impossible when you’re lethargic.
- Eisenhower’s Quadrants
See the picture above? I first leaned about this in Steven Covey’s the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” but, it’s often attributed to Dwight Eisenhower. All “tasks” fall somewhere on this chart–having both relative degrees of importance and urgency. Any tasks with deadlines start with low urgency and march across the board like a game of horizontal Space Invaders until they can be checked off.
The point is to make choices based on an evaluation of Importance and Urgency. You want to spend the majority of your time in the upper left hand quadrant: important, but not urgent. This keeps important things from moving into the urgent quadrant, where you have less options for controlling them. Further, if something is not all that important: why are you’re doing it at all?
- Tell People About Your Writing
Talk to your family, friends and colleagues about your goals. Most people want to see other people pursue their passions and achieve their goals and will go out of their way to help. But they need to know what those goals are and what they can do to help. It also goes a long way when you learn about what other people’s passions are and offer them the same kind of assistance.
- Join a Local Writing Group
Building on that last point, it really helps to surround yourself with people who have common goals, in particular those who may be a little further along in their writing journey that you can learn from. They help you learn the craft and share personal victories.
- Avoid the Naysayers and Emotional Vampires
As a counter to the above, there are unfortunately people who can be toxic in their attitudes and actions (whether intentional or not). These are the types who tell you writing is a waste of time, or that you don’t have any talent, that you’ll never be as good as Stephen King (often these people aren’t too creative with famous author names).
While you probably don’t want to completely ignore people who are otherwise close to you, do what you can to limit toxic interactions.
- Make it Easy to Write
Create your own personal writing space and develop tools to help make it easier to start writing. One example of this might be keeping your projects on a cloud drive like Dropbox or Google Docs. That way, when you have a few minutes and access to a computer you can open up your project and get right to work.
- Read a Lot
Again, perhaps one of those counter-intuitive points, but making time to write is about using the time you have efficiently and effectively. One of the best ways to learn what makes a good story is to read a lot of stories. On top of that reading a lot helps your brain to think in terms of prose and story, it helps you develop those natural talents for structure, character, generation of suspense, etc.
On that note-consider picking up my latest novel: First Command.