It’s Not Just About Making Time: How Can You Find the Energy to Write?
Making time to write can be tough. Whenever I ask people about their biggest writing challenges, “finding time” usually comes top of the list.
For most of us, though, it’s not that hard to make time.
Get up half an hour earlier, write in your lunch hour, write straight after work (and cook something for dinner that reqires little/no prep), or write for half an hour before bed.
It looks so simple when I write it down like that, doesn’t it?
Maybe you’re feeling a bit guilty or sad because you do technically have the time, at one of those points in the day … but you’re not using it to write.
My life is probably no busier than yours. I have young children (5.5 and almost-4). My husband is studying for a PhD, so we juggle childcare and all our writing work, more or less successfully. I do a little bit of volunteering (for a church group and for the kids’ school). I feed the kids, do the dishes, wash the sheets, all the usual things that keep a household ticking over — my husband does a lot, too.
So I technically have time to work on my novel. I could get up at 5am and write, which would guarantee me half an hour or more before the youngest wakes up. I could write after 8pm. I could organise my freelance work so I could take 30 minutes at lunchtime to write.
Often, though, I don’t write. Not because I don’t have any plausible time in which to do so … but because I don’t have enough energy.
Is that’s what’s happening for you too?
Why Making Time Isn’t the Whole Answer
You can make all the plans on paper you like – I know I do! – but just having some time set aside in your calendar to write isn’t necessarily going to help.
Maybe, like me, your evenings are fairly free of commitments — but you struggle to string together a sentence, let alone a paragraph, after a busy day.
It can be really frustrating to feel like you have the time, but that you’re not making good use of it. And it’s easy to blame yourself.
But writing takes a lot of energy, and that can be hard to muster up.
Five Ways to Find the Energy to Write
#1: Look At Your Non-Writing Life
This might sound basic and obvious, but if you don’t have much energy, are you getting enough sleep? Are you exercising a bit each day? Are you eating reasonably well? Are you getting enough down time to just relax? Even making small changes can help boost your energy levels.
Some aspects of your life might be pretty much impossible to change right now. When my son was 2, try as we might, we couldn’t get him to sleep past 5am. Other things, though, might be more under your control — e.g. if housework is taking a lot of your time and energy, could you hire a cleaner, or arrange things so that other family members are taking on some of the load?
#2: Plan for Longer Writing Sessions
Not all writers – and not all projects! – suit short writing sessions. When fitting my fiction around family life, I’ve written for as little as 15 minutes at a time … but I’m happier, and my writing flows better, when I can manage at least a few longer sessions.
Perhaps, to feel like you have the right energy to put words on the page, you find you need a whole afternoon and evening free – or a full working day. If you can make that happen (even only occasionally) then do!
#3: Make Writing Something to Look Forward To
Sometimes, writing can feel like yet another thing on your to-do list. If “write 500 words” has become just another daily chore, it’s definitely time to take a step back.
How could writing become a more enjoyable part of your day or week? Maybe you could pick something you’re really interested in writing (even if that means ditching your current project!), or maybe a few little treats would make all the difference to your writing session – chocolate biscuits, scented candles, whatever works for you.
#4: Use Checklist and Routines to Conserve Energy
If you’re constantly having to make decisions and remember lots of little things, that saps your energy (as well as your time). In our household, we use checklists for “things to take to school” and “household chores this week” and “our two-week meal plan”. Could something similar help you?
While your writing itself probably won’t benefit from a checklist, having a routine here can be really useful. Maybe you always write at the same time of day, for instance, or you always start off your writing session by making a cup of tea and writing a few quick notes for the scene ahead while it brews.
#5: Consider Seeing Your Doctor
If you’re consistently lacking energy, or feeling run down or low, then it’s worth a trip to your doctor to rule out any physical problems. I felt like this a couple of years ago and – after blood tests – found out that I needed vitamin D supplements. I also try to take a mild iron supplement regularly, as I find it helps with my energy level and my mood.
Feeling tired all the time can be a symptom of many things (including having small children, or having a busy day job) – but even if a physical issue like a vitamin or mineral deficiency is only part of the problem, resolving that could really help boost your energy levels.
Writing of any type takes a lot of focus and creative energy, and I believe that’s particularly true of fiction writing. Please don’t blame yourself if you find that, at the end of a busy day, the last thing you want to do is work on your novel.
I hope the ideas above will help you find the energy to enjoy your writing … and if you have a different tip or suggestion to share with us, just leave a comment below.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
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