Finding Time to Write

How much time do you spend actually writing? No, I don’t mean how much time do you spend sitting at your keyboard staring at your computer screen?  I mean how much time do you spend with your fingers on the keyboard and actually hitting those keys producing sentences in your current WIP (work in progress)?

Years ago, it was impossible for a runner to run a mile in under 5 minutes until someone actually did it and now many athletes do it.  It also used to be considered impossible for a writer to finish more than one book a year but now many put out 4 books each year and do it time and time again.

I have found, as many people have, if I think I can’t do something then I can’t.  It’s impossible for me to do it.  But, if I psych myself into thinking I can do it, I do it.  I think we’re all capable of doing so much more than what we do at the present.  We don’t use our brains to capacity – not even close.

Some people think if they produce more, their quality has to suffer and that’s not true.  The more you do something, the better you become at it.  Take a piano virtuoso, for instance.  They will tell you they practice their craft 8 hours a day minimum.  Why?  They already know how to play and they play well.  But, if they miss a day’s practice, they can tell it.  The fingers don’t fly over the keys as easily; their timing’s off; something doesn’t feel right.  The audience can’t tell it in their playing but the pianist himself or herself can.  If they miss two day’s practice, the audience may hear it also.  The more you do something, the better you become.  If you miss a day writing, the words don’t flow out as easily; the fingers don’t fly as easily.

It’s simply the more you do something, the better you get at it.  Consider your surgeon.  I don’t know about you but I don’t want a surgeon who hasn’t had any practice at the surgery he’s about to perform on me.  I want the surgeon who’s done as many operations during a day, each and every day, as he’s capable of doing.  Would you want one who operates only once a week?  Wouldn’t you feel his/her skill had become rather rusty in that time length.

Train yourself to write fast.  Close your e-mail and your web browser.  Set a timer for ten minutes.  Write until it goes off, nonstop.  Don’t censor what you’re writing – just write.  You can edit later.   I know you’re thinking all you’re going to get is garbage and maybe you’re right – the first time.  And maybe even your second and third times, too.  But you’re training yourself to write quickly on demand.  You can use this technique to write a scene, a blurb, an article – anything.

I keep a journal on my computer.  When I find myself stuck on a scene in my current WIP, I simply flip to my journal, set my timer and write as fast as I can about anything that pops into my head.  I don’t censor what I write.  It’s simply words on the screen.  Maybe it’s a day when I feel life is unfair or I’m tired of snow and ice or anything at all.  I even write conversations with my characters about how they’re not cooperating with me and they usually tell me it’s the other way around.  In other words, I don’t over think what I’m writing.

Usually you’ll find when you’re sitting staring at your screen it’s because you’re battling with yourself.  Part of you says you can’t do that scene that particular way.  Somebody’s going to know you wrote that.  Maybe your grandmother’s going to read it.  The other part says wouldn’t it be fun to put that scene in though?  Part of you says you’re going way too far with this writing thing but the writing part of you says you’re being too timid to put yourself out there.  Guess which side you should be listening to.

Learn your craft so you have those necessary skills.  Keep your creative soul well-fed.  Watch great movies, read great books, take long walks – whatever you need to keep your soul rejuvenated.  Don’t forget to take a vacation to de-stress.  Schedule some time out for you to enjoy.

If you find you dread sitting down to write, maybe you need to spend that ten minutes writing about what you really want to do.  Maybe you’re not really writing in the genre you want to write in or maybe there’s something else you really need to be thinking about.

Each of us gets twenty-four hours in each day. For one week, write down what the demands on your time are from the moment you get of bed in the morning until the time you go to bed in the evening.

What things are sucking up your valuable time and not doing anything for you in return?  First of all, get rid of the emotional drains on your time.  Do you have a friend who unloads all her emotional baggage on you?  Anybody who is so negative they leave you feeling tired or depressed.

Start saying “no” to people.  It’s your time and you need that time for yourself to be creative.  Begin to say “no” to those things you know you shouldn’t have agreed to do in the first place.  Things that aren’t doing anything at all for your writing career.   Granted not all of the people in your life are going to appreciate the change in you.  But it’s your writing career we’re talking about.

If you begin to eliminate those time wasters and the emotional energy suckers it will leave more time and emotional energy for you and your writing.  Writing takes lots of energy.

There will, of course, be some things you cannot avoid doing.  But, you can do those things after your writing time.  For instance, if taking your mother for an outing is emotionally and physically draining, schedule it after your writing time.  Just simply plan ahead.  If you find your neighbor always phones in the morning to talk, either ask them to call in the afternoon or let the answering machine take the call and you can call back when you’ve finished your writing.

Find the best time for you to write and then write.  You can do your editing, website updates, etc. during those times of day when your concentration can be a little less focused.  But when you’re actually writing those new words find a time of day that works best and stick to it.  That’s your time.  Train yourself to sit down and write all new stuff during that period.

Yes, there are things you have to do.  When you come to my house, there are dust bunnies hiding, usually in plain sight.  Things aren’t spic and span but they’re clean enough.  I don’t do windows.  (When it gets to the point I can’t see out of them, maybe I’ll wash them.)  I write instead.  When I’m stuck in a scene and can’t figure out the next step, I may get up and go throw a load of laundry in but I come right back to my keyboard and sit down.  I don’t continue to do the laundry until every piece is washed, folded and put away.  It may be evening before I get back to putting that load in the dryer.

If you have small people underfoot, enlist their help with tasks.  They may not do it as good as you, but it’ll get done and free you for some writing time while they’re napping.  It may take creativity to come up with ways to write with small ones in the house, but it can be done.  You can take them for walks and plot as you go, write during naptimes or give them a few pots and pans and they’ll entertain themselves for hours on end.

The crockpot has saved me many times.  I plan meals for a week at a time.  Easy-to-fix meals which usually means it’s something I can throw in the crockpot in the morning and not worry about until evening.  Grilled hamburgers are easy and the kids love ‘em.  My family isn’t starving.  We do a big meal with all the trimmings on Sunday for dinner which gives me leftovers for another meal later in the week.  Once a month I spend time cooking all sorts of things that are freezable in just the right-sized portions for my family.  Makes for easy meals all month.

I make as much time for my writing as I possibly can and I’m always trying to come up with ways to find even more time.  If you have suggestions, do let me know.  We writers can use all the help we can get.

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