Six Tips on How to Make Time to Write

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Making time to write is an art in itself. Even more so if you’re an unpublished writer holding down a day job and juggling family and social commitments at the same time!

It’s only the second week of the new year and I’m already trying to figure out how I’m going to squeeze my writing in around everything else in life. It’s hard carving time out to devote to your art, in the midst of all your other work, social and family commitments, but we can never forget that time spent on being creative is important time as well. So I’ve got some tips here on how to make time for your art.

1) Something is better than nothing.

Write something every day. Even if it’s just one word. One sentence. One paragraph. One chapter. At the least, you’ve kept the momentum going. Do it before you go to bed or when you’re in the kitchen getting that drink of water or when you’ve just parked your car, before you cart the groceries into the house. Five minutes, just five minutes of the day. And then you’re done. Something is always better than nothing, no matter how small an effort it is!

2) Make time.

There are all kinds of sneaky ways to squeeze in some writing time around your day and here a few of my ways:

Early Riser: I am not a born early riser but there is certainly something to be said about waking up early and getting some writing done in the quiet hour before the rest of the household awakes. For one thing, once you’ve splashed some water on your face and had a nice cup of tea, you’re usually wide awake and alert, and your mind is fresh and ready to tackle the first and most important task of the day – your writing! And it’s nice to be able to get it out of the way and feel extra productive even before the rest of your day has begun. If you know you’re going to have a busy day ahead of you, try setting your alarm an hour or even just 30 minutes earlier than usual and using this quiet time to write your heart out.

Mid-day sneakies: Sometimes you’re just not able to get up early enough to get some writing done. Or your day already begins early anyway, and to get up even earlier, you’d have to set your alarm clock to some ridiculous time like two or three o’clock in the morning. Or you’re just not an early riser kind of person! In that case, how about the midday sneaky? Take your laptop or notebook down to a park or café at lunchtime to get some writing done. Scribble furiously during your 10 or 15-minute afternoon tea-break. Write while you’re waiting for the laundry to be done, while you’re sitting at the bank waiting for your number to be called, while you’re waiting for a bus, while you’re on the bus to your next destination or even while you’re waiting for a cup of coffee at the local café! Even if you might not be able to get some substantial writing done, the least you can do is jot a few notes down or plan an outline for your next big block of writing.

Bedtime writer: Perhaps the rest of the household has gone to bed – this could be the time then for you to crank up the laptop and square away some 20 minutes of writing. Or you could take your laptop to bed to get some bedtime writing, as opposed to bedtime reading. I have even been known to lie about going to bed early when I’m really sitting on top of the covers writing furiously on my laptop until my partner shows up and goes, “Oh, HO! I thought you were going to sleep half an hour ago?!?”

And that brings us to…

3) Have a support network.

This can be hard. I am one of those people who are extremely secretive about my writing when it comes to my family and friends, and yet I am perfectly comfortable blogging and tweeting and instagramming about it to absolute strangers! I can’t help it, for I know if I fail, I’d fail in the eyes of my friends and family too. And I don’t like that. I can’t help it, I’m a perfectionist! I also get pretty anxious, especially when close friends and family can’t help asking, “So what’s the progress? Are you any closer to being published? Are you any closer to getting published? Why aren’t you getting published yet? Why….?” At which point my head promptly explodes.

So my partner and a few close friends know about my writing, but that’s about it. But I love my online writing community and my local writer’s group. So pick your support network. It can be hard, but don’t be afraid to let others know about your ambitions and just how important this is to you. At the very least, they will understand and make it easier for you to carve some time out for your writing. And that will make it even easier for you to…

4) Use the no word.

Don’t be afraid to say no to that drinks session, afternoon coffee or dinner because you’ve already blocked that time out to write. There will be plenty of other times to have that coffee. Kick that FOMO to the curb!

Now don’t get me wrong, social time and time spent catching up with friends and family is important, but you don’t have to say yes to everything. Be judicious. As author Myke Bartlett said, “When I was younger, I was aware that I could be going out and spending time with friends, going to the pub and so on. But I chose not to. I chose to stay in and practice my craft. I was aware that even though what I was probably writing then wasn’t going to get published, that was really important time to sort of dedicate myself to.”

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5) Don’t wait for ideal conditions.

As E.B. Write said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.” Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of sitting down in a serene, quiet room for two hours with the right soundtrack to our manuscript playing softly in the background, and a cup of tea and some biscuits by our laptop. I used to think I needed just the right set of conditions in which to write and any disturbances would completely throw me off. Well, I’ve thrown that kind of thinking out the window and I’ve never been more productive since. Toni Morrison would often write in the evening, ‘with her two sons pulling on her hair and tugging at her earrings. Once, a baby spit up on her tablet so she wrote around it.’ If Toni can churn out Nobel Prize-winning and Pulitzer-worthy writing under the most trying of circumstances, you can too. Don’t wait for the ideal conditions; just write.

6) Utilize some smart tools to make it easy for you to work anytime, anywhere. 

My new laptop was a very expensive purchase at the time, but it was one of the best investments I ever made. It’s so light and easy to carry around wherever I go, and it’s really quick to fire up so I can start working in a pinch at any time, even if it’s just for five minutes.

If you don’t have a laptop, carry a small notebook and a pen with you to jot down notes and ideas as they occur to you. I go one step further and use my Notes app on my iPhone. I’m really fond of Notes for a few reasons: 1) it keeps my bag from getting cluttered up with random scraps of paper; 2) it’s a lot quicker and easier for me to type, rather than write things down; and 3) I have horrible handwriting so at least I can be assured that what I type on my Notes app will be legible!

Another thing I’m looking at is the new Pages app for iPhone. I’m pretty excited at the idea of being able to upload my Microsoft Word documents onto Pages so I can work from my iPhone even when I’m out and about. I haven’t tried it yet, but once I do, I’ll try and do a review about it!

Finally, f you’re struck by the muse while driving (and how many of us often are?) and can’t pull over to write things down, try investing in some sort of voice recorder or dictafone software to get your notes down. I’ve never used them myself, but I have heard of other writers using such devices. Whatever works best for you!

Good luck writing!

4 COMMENTS

  1. “Afternoon sneakies” is a new favorite phrase 🙂

    • MarilynChin

      Afternoon sneakies are awesome 🙂

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