When it comes to writing you have to make time to write. Not find time, but make time. Then, when you’ve carved out that time, then you have to show up. You have to show up, even when you don’t feel like it or feel uninspired. Even if it’s not your best writing, work on making writing a habit because here’s the thing: you can’t edit a blank page.
So here are a few techniques to help reach your writing goals.
Write on mornings
Get the writing out of the way first. My days feel more productive when start the day working towards my writing target. It’s easy to be distracted by the mundane, checking emails and paying bills can consume your creative energy. Time management is key. Set your alarm an hour earlier and put in the work before starting your day.
Writing first thing in the morning before the day’s distractions kick in can be a motivator. Sharing your writing goals with family and clueing them in to your morning routine can be helpful. I’m especially inspired by author Nicola Yoon who said she wrote her first novel from 4-6am every day for two years. I’ve read that creativity tends to be highest after sleep so wake up and go for it. Having designated time slots for writing is a true motivator!
Write at night
The workday is over. The kids are in bed and you’ve also put to bed the day’s worries and pressures. Now it’s time to wind down with quiet, creative activity. Writing at night can be a time to kick back and let the ideas flow. Set a nighttime routine and ensure that your writing space is ready to work. Having to tidying up your workspace will lead to other household tasks that will consume your writing time. If you’re too exhausted at the end of the day to write, try writing a to-do list of things to tackle in your next writing session, or simply to ask yourself questions about what you’re working on.
Use your shower time
Write in the shower? Technically you could capture ideas on a waterproof notepad (check it out here). I’ve never used these myself but they sure look interesting.
Reclaim your lunch hour
Lunch hours are probably the most underutilized times for writing. Use your lunch hour to your advantage. Head out to a coffee shop or nearby library and use that time to work on a new scene or edit what you wrote the day before. Check out nearby community shared spaces and make a mental list of places to write, because you’ve only got an hour after all.
Make a weekend schedule
Weekends are perhaps the ideal time for writing but for those with kids and other commitments, not so much. Decide on when you can write and really try to carve out that time. Even if it’s ten minutes in the parking lot while you’re waiting to pick up the kid from practice.
Use your commute
Make the most of drive time or your bus/train ride to and from work. Think about the flow of your novel. Look for areas where you can ramp up the action, introduce more conflict. Commuting is great for pre-writing – taking notes while commuting can help organize your thoughts for when it’s time to write. Put your cell phone to work. Use your notes app to capture ideas or even do a bit of writing. There is a wide range of writing apps on the market but Google Docs works just fine for me. I use my subway commute to work to jot down a ideas for scenes and characters.
When driving, go ahead and talk out loud about your character’s goals and motivations. Explore opportunities for action and reaction.
On the train/bus, put your headphones on, launch that writing app, or pull out a notebook and get going. If you’re traveling above ground, use the passing scenery for inspiration. What do you see? The blocky landscape of an industrial city? Rolling hills and cows grazing? Capture what you see with a few short phrases. This can become useful fodder for future description.
Procrastination is the killer of time. How many precious writing minutes have you lost doing mind numbing activities like scrolling through Twitter feeds or watching funny cat videos on You Tube?
Cut back on TV and limit social media time.
Fight fire with fire by using apps designed to block disrupting apps like Facebook and Twitter.
Resist the urge to ‘research online’ while writing.
Skip morning news shows and use that time to write. I can easily waste 30 minutes watching Good Morning America.
Close out all computer programs when it’s time to write.
Maximize use of technology
Again, put your mobile phone to work.
Take advantage of the voice recorder for note-taking and thinking out loud. Walking to an appointment? Pop in your headphones and dictate some plot points as you travel to/from daily tasks.
Consider voice to text software. I haven’t tried this yet but it sounds promising.
Try writing programs like Scrivener (I’m loving Scrivener) to help organize plot points and highlight continuity and pacing problems. There are other writing programs out there that work similar to Scrivener. Go with whatever works for you.
Make a plan and track productivity
Know what you’re going to be working. Is it drafting, revising or focusing on a problem area. Character development or fleshing out a sub-plot perhaps? Maybe your outline needs tweaking. Decide beforehand what you’re going to be working on before you sit down to write.
Track your productivity – use a journal or spreadsheet to capture what you’ve done. I use a planner to record my word count, and to summarize what I’ve worked on, whether it’s a blog post or revising a scene in my WIP (work in progress).
Journaling is a way to to tell the story to yourself. However, I do have what I call a companion journal for each draft, where I’ll jot down a few sentences about what I’ve written so far, how I feel about it, brainstorm other plot ideas, alternative endings and notes for revision. Admittedly, this has also been entertaining. I flipped to a 2016 journal entry and it read “Wrote a ton of shite today.” What can I say, that’s just how it is sometimes.
Learn how to say no
I really feel bad saying no. I want everyone to be happy and I end up overextending myself and overpromising to the point where there’s nothing left for me.
Make writing a priority in your life. Be selfish with your writing time and guard it fiercely. Volunteering, errands, social appointments, drinks with friends and hanging out will eat away at available time for writing. Decide on what you can do and learn to start turning people down. The reality is if you want to write it means having to give up something else. There’s no other way.
How do you make time for your writing?