“Write every day,” is standard advice from published writers, but how do you do it around a job, family and finding time to read? Here’s tips for finding time to write:-
1. When are you most creative?
Are you a lark or an owl, ie are you most creative in the morning or evening? If the former, consider shifting your sleeping hours so you go to bed earlier and wake earlier rather than just setting the alarm clock sooner as no one starved of sleep is creative. Shift morning chores to the night before or delegate to other family members – any school aged child can dress themselves and remember bribery is a parent’s best ally. If you’re an owl, reverse the advice.
2. Do you break projects into smaller tasks and work steadily towards a deadline or do you procrastinate and work eighteen hour days when the deadline looms?
If the former, then even writing for just half an hour a day will make a huge difference if you do your usual advanced planning and break your book down into half hour tasks. If the latter, then procrastinate by doing double chores until a self-inflicted deadline looms and clear your diary for a solid block of writing (minus the guilt as you’ve already done all your chores and arranged appointments so you can have a solid block of writing time).
You may not have a filing cabinet and may have to keep reference books in a room other than the one you use for writing, but create a system were you can lay your fingers on anything you need – whether it’s that cruical note to plot development you scribbled on the back of an envelope or an editor’s email address. Time spent looking for things is time not spent writing. And you’re hard enough pressed for time to write as it is.
4. Dump the work count targets.
Word count’s a useful guide if you’re on a book-length project, but useless for poetry or short stories. A better guide is to target finishing a scene or getting to a certain point in the plot or drafting a new poem and editing an earlier draft of another. “Write 2000 words a day” could turn into 2000 words of rubbish a day. Think quality not quantity.
5. Stretch your definition of writing.
No one likes taking minutes of a meeting, so volunteer. Treat reports, letters, memos and emails as if they’re another writing project. OK, don’t break out into verse or elegantly nuance something that needs to be in plain, non jargon English. But do use it as an opportunity to hone those skills of writing in concise, clear, direct language in as few words as possible. However, don’t become a nuisance – none of your colleagues will thank you for contributing to every single staff newsletter or disrupting an established minute taking rota.
6. Set the mood
Plan ahead, don’t waste precious time trying to work out what the next scene was going to be or trying to remember which poems you were going to submit to which editor. Train family members to accept that writing time is not to be disturbed, even if it means more initial bribery. By all means play music, light candles, sharpen pencils, pour yourself a drink, stick up a ‘do not disturb’ sign if it helps the transistion from being a parent or rocket scientist to a writer, but don’t let it impinge on your writing time. Get into the habit of writing and you’ll asking yourself where will you find the time to do chores, run a parental taxi service or go on holiday instead.