A friend once told me that if she didn’t have to write, if there weren’t stories building themselves in her head constantly, her life would be much simpler. It’s not easy to be a writer, it’s a drive that no one understands except for other writers, especially if you don’t have a book deal. So, how you balance it with your real life? How do you write that first draft, spend time revising and rewriting, all while going to work, keeping your house clean, spending time with friends and partners? I don’t have all the answers to this, but over the past few years, I’ve found little ways to help.
When I first began my writer’s journey, it was simple. I didn’t have a 9-5 job, but instead worked in the service industry where my hours either gave me the full morning or full afternoon to work. I didn’t realize how difficult it could be to write with a full time job, not until I became a teacher. My days became more draining and by the time I got home, I had no motivation to write. Recently, I’ve gone a year and a half without querying because that’s how long it’s taken me to work on my new manuscript, and I’m far from done. That’s not a bad thing, I don’t want to query until it’s ready, but I began asking myself: how do I fit more time in my schedule to write? I don’t have a timeturner, so I must answer this the Muggle way.
The most straight forward answer to that question is treat it like it’s your job, because in a way, it is. At work, you have projects to complete or lessons to teach. If you slack off, don’t show up, then there’s a chance you’ll lose your job. It’s the same for writing. If you say, ‘Oh, I don’t feel like writing today’ then you’ll never finish that manuscript, never be query ready. This means you have to carve out time in your schedule.
This of course all depends on what works best for you. On Twitter there is a # called #5amwritersclub. Writers wake up at 5am to get work done before they start their day. If you’re a morning person, then this might be best for you. You’re not drained from the day yet, and if you like to go to the gym after work, or have kids to shuttle around, then this time is a perfect quiet time before the day begins. #5amwritersclub isn’t about how many words you can write, it’s about being able to write for an hour, or maybe two, every morning.
You can do the same thing in the evenings. Instead of watching a movie, or falling asleep early, setting an hour or two aside at night to go into an office or a quiet space and write will generate words on the page.
Even a lunch break will give you that small amount of time each day. It’s not much, but if you can get a bit of writing in, then that’s more than if you don’t put your butt in the chair.
The question behind how you manage your schedule is what works best for you? What motivates you to continue to write and not spend that time on your computer taking Buzz Feed quizzes (I just learned what type of Pokemon Gym Trainer I would be.)
If you only have two extra hours in your day to write, then time might be the best motivator. Similar to holding yourself to a deadline, you say that you must close the computer at this time, so that’s all you have to write.
If your time is a bit more flexible, and you feel that you need to get as many words on the page as you can, you may give yourself a daily word count goal. This strategy is used during National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) when writers aim for 50K in a month by breaking it down to around 1,600 a day.
This is similar to word count, and it’s my favorite way to write. Every time I sit down, I tell myself that I’m going to finish an entire chapter. My chapters usually range from 1,500 to 3K. Sometimes if I’m not motivated, by chapter will be short, but I know that I can go back during revisions and add more now that I have the base.
No matter which way works best for you, the only way to get words on a page, is butt in chair. You may have an incredible story to tell, but without carving out the time to write it, no one else may see. And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around. Don’t hover over one sentence for eternity. Get the words out and then go back to edit, because you can’t edit a blank page.
How do you schedule writing into your busy life? What motivates you? Comment below.
These were great tips! Even though I should have more time on my hands right now during a quarantine to write, I find I’m doing less. I think its maybe because the day has no schedule, which while nice, isn’t the perfect setting for focusing on writing. I love your recommendation of setting aside a time and treating it like a job. I’m going to start this….tomorrow!
Passion motivates me and also the desire for another book! YES and another people’s success, too! But most of the time, I just have to dive into a story and write so I do whatever I can to make / carve away time.
This is the BIGGEST obstacle, one that I’m continually trying to overcome. I’ve done okay writing on the train lately–only 25 minutes a day (because it’s too crowded on the return trip) but it makes a difference. Thanks for all the ideas!
I’m a teacher, too, and finding time to write is my biggest obstacle. I had to put it on the back burner for awhile, but now I’m trying to carve in that hour or two (or sometimes half) any chance I can get! Thanks for the added nudge.
Thank you for this terrific post! I use a sand timer (a brilliant recommendation by Claudia Mills at last year’s Rocky Mountain SCBWI Letters and Lines conference). I write for a solid (hopefully uninterrupted hour), and then assess how much more time I might have that day. If I can, I take a quick bathroom, beverage, food break and then flip it over again!
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I’ve heard of a sand timer being used, too. I heard about it on Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast. I liked it- but still haven’t gotten one 🙂
Thanks for the reminders. It’s so easy to let life get in the way. Tomorrow’s don’t ever get here unless we make the extra effort to get it done
Great tips—so easy to lose sight of goals due to procrastination or exhaustion.