How To Find Time to Write Despite Your Busy Life
By Kelly L. Stone
When I tell people that I've written three books and started a freelance writing career while holding down a full-time job, their jaws drop. Then the inevitable question follows: how did you find the time? That is the basis of my book Time to Write: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing into Your Busy Life. In that book, I reveal how I and the other authors managed to find time to write and get published, all while holding down jobs, caring for families, juggling household responsibilities and managing to get sufficient amounts of sleep.
The bottom line is, we're all busy, sometimes to the point of feeling frantic. But finding time to write can be done, no matter how busy you are. Here are just a few of the tips from my book:
1) Make writing appointments. Making time to write is similar to any new activity that you are attempting to fit into your life; let's use exercise as an example. How do you do it? You plan ahead. You decide that you'll exercise for twenty minutes, three times a week. You might choose Tuesday and Thursday at four o'clock and Saturday at nine o'clock. It's the same idea with writing. Decide when you will write, and then jot it down in your calendar. Whatever time slots you choose, write them down and then.
2) .keep the appointments. Just like you won't reap the health benefits that come with exercise if you don't regularly break a sweat, you won't reap the benefits of consistent writing if you routinely blow it off. So work hard to keep that writing appointment. Treat it like it's "real," just like an appointment with the doctor or at your child's school. The only way to do this is to exercise self-discipline and make yourself follow through.
3) Stay Focused. When it's writing time, you should be writing. Don't let yourself get sucked into surfing the Internet, checking e-mail or making a grocery list.
4) Plan your work. When you make the weekly appointments, also plan what you'll be working on during that time: Monday you'll use your twenty minutes to create plot points, Wednesday you'll use the hour for writing freely on your draft and during Friday's thirty minute session, you'll revise what you did that week. Maximize the time spent at your desk by planning ahead how you'll tackle that day's writing session.
5) Set long range and intermediate goals. Knowing what you're striving for (long range goals) will help you decide how much time you need to write and how much work you should produce during that time (intermediate goals). For example, decide what date in the future you want to have your book finished. Then, work backwards to determine how much writing you should do every week to meet that deadline. If the draft of your novel will be four hundred pages and you want to finish it in a year, then you'll have to write thirty-three pages per month (four-hundred divided by twelve), or roughly eight pages a week (thirty-three divided by four). If you write three days a week, that's two to three pages each sitting. Break your writing down this way to make time management seem easier.
6) Make up lost time. Let's face it--life happens. If you miss a writing appointment because your kid gets sick or your car breaks down or there's a family function you simply must attend, cut yourself some slack, but do plan to make up the lost time the following week if possible. This means you might have to make four writing appointments instead of your usual three, or write two hours one day instead of just one. Make every effort to stay on track with your weekly goal.
7) Reward yourself. This is an important step because you want to associate positive feelings with that self-discipline you've been practicing. It reinforces the behavior and increases the chances that you'll do it again. So at the end of each week that you kept your writing appointments, do something nice for yourself. Take a bubble bath, get a pedicure, have a romantic dinner with your spouse or buy your favorite author's latest release. You can even reward yourself at the end of each writing session. For example: If I write for thirty minutes, I can watch General Hospital.
Finding time to write is a dilemma that every writer faces, published or not. The tips above are based on my interviews with over one hundred professional writers on how they do it, and there are a lot more in my book. Give them a try!
Kelly L. Stone (www.kellylstone.com) began a freelance writing career while holding down a full-time job. Her articles and essays have been published in Family Circle, Writer's Digest, Cat Fancy, Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Her debut novel, Grave Secret, was released in September. Her book Time to Write: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing Into Your Busy Life is now in stores. Her next book, Thinking Write: The Secret to Freeing Your Creative Mind, will be released in October, 2009 and demonstrates how to apply the power of your subconscious mind to your writing aspirations.