Write Bites: Finding Time to Write

cropped-screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-8-16-39-pmI am thankful that, since I started writing novels at the age of 14, very few people have said to me, “I wish I could write novels; I just don’t have the time.” Anyone who’s a writer themself, or who’s spoken to a writer about their job (because yes, essentially, it’s a job, even if you aren’t being paid for it yet) knows that people don’t finish novels just because they have a lot of free time on their hands. If you want to write a novel, you need to make time for it.

Obviously, this is much tricker than it sounds, especially if you already lead a busy life.

Though I have a lot going on nowadays, I actually have more time to write than I’m used to having, and it’s incredibly refreshing. When people ask this 24-year-old version of me how I find the time, I think, “Are you kidding? I don’t have homework anymore–I have all the time in the world!” That’s not technically true, since I do work 40 hours a week. But I started writing novels in high school, and that commitment required much more than 40 hours a week. Because the second I got home from my eight-hour (sometimes nine-hour) school day, I was expected to do homework and have it all finished by the time I woke up at 6 a.m. the next day.

Seriously, of every period in my life I’ve experienced so far, finding time to write in high school was the hardest. On top of my workload, I didn’t have complete control of my schedule. During the weeks I spent at my dad’s house, I had to be in bed by 9:30 (I finally got him to extend the bedtime to 10:30 when I explained I needed more time to write). Beyond that, I have struggled with sleep anxiety my entire life. I might’ve been in bed by 10:30, but I usually didn’t fall asleep until midnight, at least. Sometimes later. So I was exhausted all the time.

But developing a regular writing habit was important to me, and I knew it was the only way I would finish a book. So I was strict with myself. I wrote Sunday-Friday, allowing Saturday to be my day off. My ideal block of writing time is 2 hours, so I made sure I was ready to write by 8:00pm and finished by 10:00pm. Sometimes I wonder to myself, “How did I stick to that schedule?!” I haven’t been able to maintain that sort of schedule since. But I know how I did it: because I couldn’t afford not to. If I deviated from that way of doing things, I wouldn’t get to write, because the time wasn’t there.

College was its own beast. I may have had more control over my schedule and fewer hours where I was required to sit in class, but my homework load doubled, and for some reason I agreed to take on more responsibilities with each year (a newspaper job, various club commitments, later a second job, and oh yeah, a social life, sort of?). Still, though, high school was the hardest. In college I could stay up late and do homework, or stay up late and write. I could decide not to attend a club meeting if I wasn’t part of that club’s cabinet.

Compared to all that, my current situation is a freaking breeze. When I get home from work or from the internship I just landed, I don’t have to do ANYTHING that has a deadline, unless I’ve agreed to a freelance piece for that week. That freedom allows me to write as well as do other important things, like spend time with my fiancé. I’ve even managed to work in a weekly D&D campaign (social time), and a yoga class twice a week (exercise time), which are both great for self-care.

All that being said, not everyone has this luxury. Committing to a craft like this is hard, especially if you’re a student or a parent. I have some tips for people who are struggling to fit writing into their schedules:

  • Be flexible about how much time you spend writing. I am terrible at this–I’m greedy about having my two hour time slot, or at least an hour and a half. This has led to me deciding not to write because it’s “too late” or I have to be somewhere “too soon,” even if “too soon” means I’m leaving an hour from now. Some people may only be able to write by squeezing an hour or 30 minutes in here and there. Every minute counts.
  • Get creative with where you write. I prefer to write at home, so, again, I’m terrible at this. But in high school I was more flexible, maybe because back then I didn’t have my own nicely decorated desk with its own comfortable chair (I used to write on my bed with stacked pillows acting as a makeshift desk). If you have one, pack your laptop, tablet, or even phone in your bag and take it with you wherever you’re going. Maybe you can write during your lunch break at work (like I am now),  or right before a doctor’s appointment, or in transit if you take public transportation. These scenarios aren’t always ideal, but if your schedule is hectic, it may be what you need.
  • Choose to write over doing something else. Obviously you can’t skip work if you have a day job, or neglect homework, or ignore your child if no one else is around to care for them. But if you want to make this happen, sacrifices will have to be made, as long as those sacrifices aren’t detrimental to your health. Every hour I spend writing is an hour I could spend with my fiancé, or hanging out with friends, or reading, or playing a beloved video game. Sometimes it’s an hour I could spend sleeping (I know, that’s against the “detrimental to your health” rule–try to be better than me).
  • Take breaks. Writing may require sacrifices, but you do need time to unwind. Even when I was keeping to my strictest schedule, I still gave myself Saturdays off. If you don’t make room for you-time, or for spending with the people in your life, your emotional health will suffer. No art is worth seriously destroying yourself over.
  • Cultivate a loving relationship with your writing. Writing is a venture with no immediate payoff. Sometimes, there’s no payoff at all. I’ve been writing novels for ten years and am still working towards publication, so the rewards I reap from writing haven’t been monetary ones, at least so far. If you’re in the writing game for money or fame–even small-time fame–over everything else, don’t do it. Your love for writing needs to come before those motivations. It doesn’t mean you can’t want money or fame, but if you don’t love writing from the bottom of your heart, it will be very, very hard to keep going when you get discouraged.

My advice is limited to my own experiences and may not be applicable to everyone. Especially parents, since I’m not a parent yet and have no idea how authors who are parents ever get anything done. I’m pretty sure they’re superheroes. But I hope it helps someone out there who may feel a little helpless.

-Morgan

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6 thoughts on “Write Bites: Finding Time to Write

  1. I’ve learned to not force myself to write. The writing I’m least proud of is the writing I’ve done when I’ve forced it. I think every writer is different, and each writer needs to learn what works for them to be successful. Some writers I know would say that forcing it is the only way to get stuff done. For me, though, it doesn’t feel natural. I’m not in the novel writing business at the moment (though would love to publish a book some day), but I know that I will only begin to work on a book when it feels like the right time for me to begin working on a book. I also know I’m a very feeling based person, so the very concept of “only when it feels right” is very alien to some people. And that’s okay, because we’re all different and have different ways of approaching our work.

    I love, love, love your tip about “cultivating a loving relationship with your writing.” SO IMPORTANT. And you’re absolutely right, writing is something you make time for. There’s no question about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Forcing yourself to work is definitely not for everyone, and shouldn’t be–we’re all different people. I’m really glad you’re so committed to your own process and that you know yourself well enough to know what works for you and what doesn’t. That’s so important. There is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to writing!

      I do force myself to write about 50% of the time, but only because I know that once I’m there and get into a groove, I’ll be fine. I do sometimes come away from the writing session not feeling totally satisfied, but that also happens when I don’t have to force myself. My feeling is, as long as I wrote at least one line I liked even a little bit, I did my job. I totally understand what you mean about feeling things out–I always start a first draft on a day when I have that “today is the day” feeling.

      And yes, that was my favorite tip to write! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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      1. I think, when you’re writing a book its a little different. There are going to be days that you have to force yourself to write if you want to actually succeed in finishing the book. Looking back on my original comment, I didn’t stop to consider how I might approach the act of novel writing, since I haven’t tried that for quite some time. Given that I’m not writing a book right now, forcing myself to write when I don’t feel like it isn’t a concern of mine. Perhaps it will become a concern of when if/when I get to that stage in my life. You’re most welcome. I love conversing about writing and the writing process, and it’s not something I get to do a lot of these days.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think it really depends on the writer! The whole “if you only write when you’re inspired you’ll never finish the book” thing really helped me get into the habit of finishing novels, but I’ve heard other writers say that thought discouraged them/made writing even harder or less enjoyable. But you’re right, different forms of writing require different processes. For me, it’s much easier for me to crank out 1600 words of blog post than 1600 words of fiction, so I approach those differently.

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  2. This is all excellent advice. The biggest reason why I do all my writing on Google Drive is because that means I can easily pull my documents up on my phone and start typing away. I get quite a bit of writing done during my lunch break at work or on the train that way. It’s great for occupying those short bits of time where I’d probably be playing games on my phone otherwise just to give myself something to do.

    Recently, I started a new job, and at the beginning I had some questions about why I didn’t do more on the weekend. (I think I do plenty, but I tend to leave at least one fully day to primarily write.) Now, though, everyone at work knows I’m a writer, so when I get the inevitable question about what I’m doing that weekend, they always follow it up with something like, “Besides writing.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s awesome! Yeah, I’ve found if I don’t bring a book or my laptop or something during lunch, I end up wasting time on social media and regretting it. I don’t use Google Drive but I do upload my drafts to OneDrive every time I’m done writing, which is handy.

      And I’m glad they know the deal now, haha! Honestly I wouldn’t do much on weekends even if I didn’t write…I’m kind of a homebody.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

      Like

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