Fun Fact: In order to be a writer, you actually have to sit down and write. While this sounds pretty straightforward, things can get complicated, fast.
An average day for me goes something like this: I wake up with every intention of getting a solid 1000 words down. I plop down at the table, open up my laptop, and am promptly reminded by my two-year old that she needs a chocolate milk. RIGHT NOW. By the time I finally make it back to my computer, I have assembled a meal (or two) for a bevy of young humans, assisted in the cleaning of a spilled chocolate milk, started a load of laundry, folded a single load of laundry while watching a half a season of Parks & Rec, ferried the youngsters to and from the library, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher a couple times, scrolled through a small novel’s worth on Facebook, and a few other not-so-minor tasks. And now it’s 11:00 p.m. So much for my solid 1000 words.
While my experience is certainly not universal, it’s not terribly unique either. Most of us have the desire to write, but struggle finding the time amidst the whirlwind of daily life.
I can’t, unfortunately, loan you a time-turner, as I believe the Ministry of Magic keeps those under pretty tight security, but I can offer up a few suggestions that may help you manage your writing time more efficiently.
Make Writing a Priority
In his book Zen in the Art of Creative Writing, Ray Bradbury talks about how he spends an hour writing first thing each morning. Before breakfast, before shower, before everything else. This time of day may or may not work for everyone, but one thing is clear. You need to make your writing a priority. It’s like going to the gym. If you don’t schedule it and make it a priority, you’ll keep putting it off. If first thing in the morning isn’t your jam? Find a time during the day where you know you can get at least an hour of uninterrupted work in, and stick to it. Schedule it in your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, whatever you need to do.
Get a Support System
Once you have your writing time scheduled, you need to get your people on board. This may be the most important part of this whole list. Regardless of your situation in life, you need to have a team who can support you in your writing endeavors. First and foremost, you need to communicate with them. If you have family, get them on board with you. Ask for help when you need it. In my case, enlisting the support of my spouse and my older kids is crucial. Whether it’s keeping an eye on the little ones or taking a chore off my to-do list, they make this all possible. However, even if you’re not in the midst of family life, keep your support system in mind If you’re constantly ditching out on basketball games or D&D night with your buddies to work on your book, relationships could suffer. Make sure you let your pals know how important both your writing, and they themselves, are to you. These will be the ones who will be your first book buyers down the road.
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”
Settle on the best place to let your creative juices flow. Hemingway and J. K. Rowling found success writing in cafes, Chuck Palahniuk wrote in busy public spots, and Stephen King believes the most important attribute of your writing space needs to be a door. Regardless of which environment fits you best, make sure that you designate a spot that best suits your writing needs. For me, it’s the library. I can separate myself from the distractions and responsibilities of home, plug in some noise cancelling ear buds, and focus solely on the task at hand.
Last of all, your writing time needs to be as free from distraction as humanly possible. Keep that Facebook tab closed! Leave your phone in another room! Lock your kids in the closet! Ok, no, maybe that’s a bit too far. This is where the first three items on our list all work together to make sure you can use your writing time effectively. Schedule yourself a time when you can put aside other responsibilities, make sure your support system has your back (aka, leaving you alone), settle into your writing space, and let your imagination go crazy.
In addition to these tips, remember to keep your goals realistic. Set schedules that will reasonably work with your own unique situation. Don’t get down on yourself if everything doesn’t run smoothly from the get go. Allow yourself time to get into good habits, and tweak things as necessary. Jobs change, kids grow up, and situations can take your life down some unexpected paths, but as long as your commitment to writing is there, you can make it work. So keep going, and good luck!