Casual readers and signed up members alike on Now Novel share a common struggle: Finding time to write. Or, rather, making time to write, since that’s what it boils down to. Between simple life hacks and prioritizing your writing, you can finish your story. Here are several tips for how to find time to write:
1. Create distraction-free writing sessions
- Turn off the TV if it tempts you
- Write after the children are in bed if you have a family or get up early to write before work
- If you aren’t a morning person, use weekends instead (this is how Scalzi was able to write his debut)
If you want to write, you will find the time. Even if it is only 250 words per day you jot down on the bus. Try work your way up to 800 words per day – the length of a critique submission on Now Novel. Although this might not seem much, you’ll have over 4000 words written within a month.
2. Keep your writing appointments
The late poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou was strict about showing up for writing appointments with herself. In an interview for the book Writers Dreaming, she said:
‘I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’ you know. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’
What Angelou describes is the simple art of showing up, despite passing internal or external discouragements. It might feel like a waste of time when you’re not churning out sentences you think will make your final edit. Yet even ‘blocked’ days are important groundwork, as your mind is sifting through ideas and impressions to find the story’s thread.
3. Learn the art of ‘snap writing’
Science fiction author Danie Ware recommends what she calls ‘snap writing.’ Much writing advice advocates sticking to a relentless routine. There’s good reason for this. Chunking up a project into manageable tasks ensures you chip away at it consistently, whether fast or slow.
Ware’s view, though, is that this is damaging to productivity when you become obsessed with making every writing session meet your ideal conditions.
Instead, Ware says, grab twenty minutes here, a half hour there — a full hour somewhere if you are particularly lucky.
In order to ‘snap write’ effectively, Ware suggests doing this at least once a day. That way you can always leap right back into your story and pick up where you left off.
Get the most out of snap writing and combine it with Earnest Hemingway’s approach to picking up where you left off. Stop mid-sentence at the end of a snap writing session so that you have an urgent desire to continue and finish when you resume.
4. Get help
Ursula Le Guin shares that between herself and her husband, they had three jobs. Her husband was a professor, she was a novelist, and between the two of them they shared the third – raising a family.
Though neither of them would have coped well with two jobs alone, according to Le Guin, they could and did split three jobs between them.
Find ways to share chores and duties between immediate family members so there are more pockets of time that are purely yours to use. Find other ways to streamline daily non-negotiable responsibilities. Time management is key to making good progress on longer fiction. Delegate when time is tight.
5. Just do it
A lot of advice about finding time to write boils down to simply doing it. You have to turn off the TV, turn down the occasional lunch date or sacrifice that extra half-hour of sleep. Children’s writer Allison Tait points out a simple truth: Writing is not convenience. It’s something of a luxury, even though for committed writers it is also a necessity.
As writers struggling to find time to write, we might feel as though other writers have some sort of ‘secret formula’; access to hours that we do not. The truth is, as Tait says, starting something and making it a habit isn’t easy. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to months to make it an everyday part of your life, so the sooner you start, the closer you are to achieving your goal.
Get help from a writing coach for extra encouragement, guidance and focus.
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