Thursday, July 7, 2011

Finding the time to write

This is something I struggled with a lot when I first started writing, and even now that I've gotten into the habit of writing everyday, things come up that pull me out of it now and again.

Like Now, for instance. The past few weeks I’ve been interning, studying for the GRE, starting this blog, packing to move (from one apartment building to another beside it), and preparing my book for publication. These are simply excuses.

I’ve actually found that, for the most part, I’m one of those people who does better writing when I’m busy. If I have to get up and show up for class at a certain time, I have no problem setting my alarm an hour earlier and writing first thing in the morning. If I have to get up really early for work, I write when I get home.

If I ever get a rare full day to myself with little or nothing that needs to be done-which sounds ideal for a writer-I actually get less done, proportionately. I’ll procrastinate. I’ll get distracted. I’ll open a blank document and think, “I have no idea what to write.” It’s like I have situational writer’s block.
It’s getting out and engaging with other people that give me ideas and inspiration for my stories, and allow me to clear my head. That being said, if I have too much on my plate, writing is often the first thing that goes, and once it does, it’s hard to jump back into.

In an effort to keep this from happening, I’ve learned to plan ahead and set aside designated time to write (an exact time works best, but if that’s too uncertain, then “as soon as I get home” or “right after dinner” works too). I try and keep this time the same for as long as possible (for example, I wrote first thing in the morning every day last semester, but over the summer I switched to writing before I go to sleep).
But of course, last minute surprises love to pop up and shatter all my careful planning. When that happens it’s easy to say, “Looks like I’m too busy to write.”

The truth is, most days, we’re never too busy to write. The time is there, we just aren’t looking for it hard enough. I mean, look at me-I’m on here (and you are too!) so we must have a few minutes to spare. The trick is to squeeze those minutes into hours.

If your schedule seems too busy, rearrange it. You might be thinking, “I can’t do that.” But chances are, you can, if you’re willing too. Some of the ways I’ve managed to cram in writing during those hectic busy weeks are by:

1) Cutting back on phone calls (this was a big one for me-I probably spend over an hour a day on the phone, on average. That gives me a whole half-hour to write, just by cutting it in half).

2) Getting up early, going to bed late. Sleep is important, but what is twenty or thirty minutes really going to do for you?

3) TV. Movies. Video Games. Need I say more?

4) Dinner. Do you usually cook? Try making something you can throw together quickly, then pop in the over for thirty minutes or more, and write while it cooks. If you usually eat out, try eating in, or ordering take out. Who says you can’t write while you eat?

5) Reading. It might sound counter-productive to give up reading to write, but if it’s a daily ritual you’ve already become accustomed to, try cutting your reading time in half, and devoting the other to writing.

6) If you live with other people, make sure they know you are writing. Or working. Or doing something important and should not be interrupted under any circumstance unless the house is on fire or the world is about to end. Or your favorite fictional character was just seen walking down the street. 

Of course, you don’t have to give up all of these things. Being a writer wouldn’t be very fun if all we ever did was write. These are just some suggestions, all of which I’ve cut at one time or another, but picked back up again when things slowed down a bit in the rest of my life.

Have you ever found it hard to find the time to write? How did you cope? Was there anything you had to give up? 


  1. I think I just had to do what you're doing - determine a time to write. And a word count. I'm somewhere at the '1000 words a day' determination, but some days that's almost impossible. :)

  2. I need to apply these same concepts to other aspects of my life. I found that I have not been playing music as much, because I have been "busy" when in reality the time is there... I have just refused to see it.

  3. one more thing,

    I SEE FRODO!!!!!!!!!

  4. Hey, Morgan!
    I gave up sleep for a while but then it got to be too much and I was starting to get a little crazy. I try to write a little while each evening and save the big blocks of time for the weekend.

    Of course, I have no real social life anymore...