Regularly, someone asks me how I have time to write, let alone write a book.
Look at what I’m doing now! I’m at my sister’s house, writing! CW is playing with his cousin and baby Z is in the exer-saucer! I shouldn’t be writing this post at the moment, I should be chatting with my sister and watching the kids play because it’s fun! And there are rainbows and unicorns and kittens prancing around the house because that’s what life is for a stay-at-home-mom/career mom/freelancer/author!
Right. So there is never time to write. That’s the key. There is always something else to do. If it’s not re-mopping the kitchen floor for the fiftieth time because SOMEone spilled their milk, it’s doing the laundry again because it never goes away. Something is always dirty, and it’s usually a pile of clothes, somehow (how? I just washed them!). It’s never just one item, it’s always like twenty shirts.
Anyway, this is a topic loads of writers have tackled. I am not the first. But I’ve been giving advice to a few people with aspirations of the writerly sort, so I want to put my thoughts into a blog post that I can quickly point them to.
When I say that you have to make time to write, that’s precisely what I mean! Here. I’ve boiled it down to a list of five very important things:
1) Figure out your distractions. Sometimes things are more important than writing, like being a parent, taking your kid to school, picking that same kid up from school (I have writer friends who sometimes forget to do this because they’re writing! Haha!) Showering, eating, paying the bills, possibly working. Those are all necessities. But other things, not so much. Playing Destiny or Grand Theft Auto V? A distraction. At least, for me. I love video games, but they suck the time away as well as the urge to tell a story. I get lost in those stories and lose that primal instinct to sit by the fire and weave a tale. Is it the same for you?
2) Get rid of things that qualify as a distraction. This is really part of number one, but it bears repeating because it’s so important! I recently deleted Facebook from my smartphone because I’d spend an irrational amount of time chasing links on it and commenting on other people’s life stories. I should be living life, not remarking about it from the sidelines. Right? Granted, some would think writing a book isn’t really living, but it is for me. I also had to shove aside my video game addiction. You might need to do that. Whatever your distractions are, figure out which is more important: writing or messing around.
3) Write when there’s downtime. For me, this just barely opened up as a possibility because my 3.5 year-old began going to preschool two days a week. Stoker drops him off on his way to work and baby Z takes a nap. I can potentially get 600 words in before she wakes up and I have to go pick up CW. When is YOUR downtime? Do you have a half-hour or hour lunch break everyday? When I was working as an editor, my lunch hour was my writing time. I snacked and scribbled. Figure out your free time and focus. Some nights I can work once the kids are in bed. Can you?
4) Think about what you’re going to write before you sit down to write. They say writers live two lives, the one they’re living and the one in their head, which is carefully taking stock of everything and caching it away for material later. Something like that. Whatever. I don’t remember exactly, but the point is, it’s helpful to be aware of your story all the time. For that scene with the characters in the rain? You really want to pay attention to the rain that’s happening today, right now, as you drive/walk to work. This way, when you finally sit down to write, you don’t waste a single minute searching for material. You’ve got it. Burn that keyboard up! Type! (Or scrawl it, if pen and paper is your thing.)
5) Write. Every. Day. Everyone always says this. They say it because it’s true. Getting a schedule is important because humans are creatures of habit. Our brains are tiny (everyone always says huge, but they’re lying). There are a few things that we don’t have to do habitually to remember, like riding a bike, reading words once we’re literate, etc. But things like remembering the details of a story? We forget. If you put aside a book you’re casually reading and don’t pick it up for a month, sometimes less, generally you won’t remember what the hell is going on in it. That same thing happens with the book you’re writing. You don’t want to waste writing time re-reading your entire story because you put it down for a year. So set a daily word limit. Make it simple at first–100 words, 300, 500. Whatever works. Make it reachable so that you have the pleasure of accomplishing the goal. That way you don’t give up immediately. If you write more than your goal, great. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t go significantly over it.
If you can follow at least four of these, you too can write a book. Or a short story. Or whatever it is you want to write. Like anything in life, you simply have to want it. The best advice? Take the Nike slogan to heart: “Just do it.”
Like most people, I don’t have time to write. I create time, then I make it work for me. Make time work for you! The above five steps have helped me manage to continue to work (for the most part) through having two kids. Babies are needy. Kids are needy. And of course my kids are of the utmost importance to me, but . . . so is my work. I actively create the time to do it. And you can as well, if it’s what you want.