Image from Flickr by Dave Stokes
One of the biggest problems writers face (80% of Writers’ Huddle members said they struggle with this) is finding enough time to write.
You’ve probably tried some of the usual advice – things like:
- Write for 20 minutes every day. (This really doesn’t work for me – I’d much rather have a single long writing session every week.)
- Set your alarm an hour earlier. (Doesn’t really help if it leaves you staring zombie-like at the screen for an hour.)
- Get out of the house. (Great when you can do it, but not always practical – what if your best writing time is 11pm or 5am? Or you have kids?)
- Switch off your internet connection while you write. (Okay, this one DOES work wonders!)
I know I’ve struggled with finding enough time to write throughout my time as a writer, from my early teens onward. Here are a few things I’ve learnt – often the hard way!
Traditional Productivity Advice Often Won’t Help
If you’ve read blogs or books on time management or productivity, you might find their advice frustrating.
Often, good techniques for dealing with fairly mundane tasks (getting chores done or emptying your inbox) don’t help with creative work. You need energy and inspiration, not just time, to write.
Too much focus on efficiency can even be counter-productive, leaving you focused on getting words down instead of taking time to plan, explore, and daydream.
Free Time Doesn’t Just Happen
I used to think that free time would magically appear from nowhere: that I’d suddenly have a whole weekend or a spare afternoon to spend on writing, without any forward planning.
I don’t think that’s ever happened…
It’s all too easy to fill life with other obligations – whether they’re scheduled ones (meetings, social events, volunteering) or unscheduled ones (household chores, non-writing projects).
If you want time to write, you won’t simply find a spare three hours. You need to make that time, by blocking it out on your calendar. If next week is already full, look further ahead.
Figure Out When You Work Well
Some writers are at their best before the world is awake, at 5am or 6am. Others love to write late into the night, until 1am or 2am. You may well find that you can write twice as much (or even more) at your best time of day than at your worst time.
Don’t assume that your best hours are set in stone – and experiment with different times of day for different projects. I find that, all else being equal, I write blog posts most easily in the mornings and fiction in the afternoons.
One handy tool for finding your best writing hours is Charlie Gilkey’s productivity heatmap.
(In fact, a lot of Charlie’s work on Productive Flourishing helps creative people get the most from their time – so do check out the rest of his blog too.)
Stop Doing Other Stuff
I’m not suggesting you give up watching TV or playing video games or whatever you do to unwind.
Instead, what can you give up that you really wouldn’t miss?
Can you quit as chair of that committee? Can you pay someone to clean your home instead of doing it yourself? Can you have a ready meal or takeaway a couple of nights a week?
Your time is already full – so figure out what you can replace with writing.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Finally … if you are struggling to make time to write, or if you’re struggling to use your time well, don’t beat yourself up about it.
Sometimes life is crazy-busy or crazy-stressful. If you’re working long hours, or if work is causing you stress, you may well lack the energy to write.
Sometimes you (quite rightly) have other priorities: a sick relative, a new baby, friends who are visiting all-too-briefly.
Sometimes you’re just really not in the mood to write.
Sometimes, spending an hour reading webcomics and watching funny videos will throw up a brand new idea. (Your brain needs downtime.)
It’s all too easy to think “I’m just not cut out to be a writer” or “I need to be more self-disciplined” or “maybe I should give up.” Don’t. You want writing to be something fun and fulfilling, not something to guilt-trip yourself about.
Cut yourself some slack … and enjoy your writing journey!